How do you converge yours?

[Warning. This post contains gratuitous before and after shots of website convergence]

The Borg cube

There’s more to closing down legacy websites than just assimilating them Borg-style into your main web platform using homogenous, corporate-branded templates.

While that is one of the options, it’s at one end of a spectrum which can have many nuanced approaches between that extreme and the other, allowing a website to continue ‘as-is’.

Now that we’re some way down the road with our website shared service, I can share some of the (subtly) different approaches to convergence we’ve taken so far at BIS.

1. Full integration

What it entails: This is the full-on Borg treatment – closing down a website and absorbing its better parts into a section of the main corporate site, discarding the rest. Depending on the strength of the brand, we might also stick their logo on the section landing page to reassure regular visitors they’ve come to the right place.

Appropriate for: Sites which share an audience in common with the parent website (and arguably oughtn’t have been set up in the first place); sites with only a few pages of content or which have no professional editors to look after them.

Example: Shareholder Executive

Before: A stand-alone site with its own domain of shareholderexecutive.gov.uk, own look and feel and separate commercial arrangements.

After: A section of the BIS site with the URL www.bis.gov.uk/shareholderexecutive

What it looks like:

Shareholder Executive website before and after

2. Welcome to the family

What it entails: Shutting down a previously separate website and replacing it with a sub-site on the BIS corporate platform, with its own logo, brand colours, navigation and homepage. By re-using the main site’s templates with customised branding, these sites bear a strong family resemblance to their parent and each other. They also carry a universal navigation across the top to signal the parent-child relationship and keep the family together.

Appropriate for: Sites which serve a different purpose or niche audience; sites which need politically to retain some independence; sizeable sites which really need their own homepage, navigation, workflow and analytics to remain effective.

Example: Foresight (see also British Hallmarking Council)

Before: A stand-alone site with its own URL of foresight.gov.uk, own look and feel and separate commercial arrangements.

After: A sub-site of BIS with the URL www.bis.gov.uk/foresight

What it looks like:

Foresight before and after

3. Reverse engineering

What it entails: Upgrading a section of content on the Department’s corporate site to a family sub-site like the above, taking advantage of the opportunity to improve the policy team’s web offering. (We neither anticipate nor encourage too many of these).

Appropriate for: Organisations or policy areas needing a separate homepage and branded web presence, or with a strong claim to partial or symbolic independence from the parent organisation.

Example: Government Office for Science

Before: Section on the BIS site with the URL www.bis.gov.uk/go-science, with a landing page which desperately wanted to be a homepage when it grew up.

After: A sub-site of BIS with the URL www.bis.gov.uk/go-science

What it looks like:

GO Science website before and after

4. Skin and link

What it entails: Keeping a site open on its own infrastructure, but giving it a makeover to create the appearance of being part of the family. A BIS subdomain is used in place of its own .gov.uk URL. A bit of a cheat, and often a last resort.

Appropriate for: Sites which need a stopgap arrangement until proper convergence can be achieved (waiting, for example, for a more economical time to break contracts); sites or parts of sites with complex functionality which would cost too much to recreate on-platform; sites which have a shelf-life shorter than the time in which benefits of full convergence can be realised.

Example: Skills Funding Agency

Before: Stand-alone website for the (then) Learning and Skills Council with its own look and feel and URL of www.lsc.gov.uk

After: Stand-alone site ‘skinned’ using BIS templates and universal top bar, with the URL http://skillsfundingagency.bis.gov.uk/

What it looks like:

Skills Funding Agency website before and after

5. Family within a family

What it entails: This is where several family sub-sites like the examples above share additional visual elements in common, with prominent cross-site promotion, to signal their close relationship to each other.

Appropriate for: Sites on a similar topic, addressing a similar or overlapping audience, but with variation of purpose and organisational status.

Example: Government Office for Science, the Council for Science and Technology, and Foresight

What it looks like:

6. Look no top bar

What it entails: This is when a website shares our platform and makes use of the BIS ready-made ‘family site’ templates but with its own .gov.uk URL and no universal BIS navigation bar.

Appropriate for: Sites which have been given permission to continue under the government website review, including the corporate sites of other government departments.

Example: The Export Credits Guarantee Department.

What it looks like:

7. Own look and feel?

What it entails: A sub-site on the BIS shared website platform but, rather than using the ready-made templates, using some bespoke designs of its own. The BIS top bar and some rules about where key navigation elements appear ensure there is still a family resemblance, but more like a cousin than a brother.

Appropriate for: Sites with a well-developed user interface which differs from the out of the box BIS offer; sites for organisations which by their nature need a distinctive and high-impact brand (like, say, a body which promotes design or innovation).

Example: None yet, but watch this space.

What it looks like: Whatever you want it to look like, baby.

So that’s it from me – and I’m sure it feels quite enough to anyone still reading this far down (hello, mum!)

I’m afraid I’ve been living and breathing this stuff for so long now I’ve become a bit obsessed – so I’d genuinely be interested to hear about your own approaches to converging websites, and how they compare to mine.

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Comments

RT @neillyneil: Just blogged: How do you converge yours? – http://neilojwilliams.net/missioncreep/2...

@neillyneil great post – god knows some of that kind of flexibility would have been handy in the early days of ‘convergence’!

Excellent stuff. Thanks for sharing this. Great to see a practical example of how to do convergence with flexibility and consistency built in.

@jukesie thanks Matt

I love it when a plan comes together. The sites look great and it sounds like you’re ready for pretty much anything that comes your way.

Are you getting a feel for which solution will be used most? More full on Borg integration or one of the looser options?

One niggle: Go-Science needs a bit of help with headlines. “Launch of CoPSAC” sounds very Tucker-esque.

Been reading this so much lately. Thanks Neil. Recommended for those of us yet to *converge*

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[...] 1 and 2 are often – but not universally – fraught with petty turf wars and bad feeling. Option 3 would make a lot of sense, as well [...]

Hi Neil, just came across this post – we’re involved in a council-wide website rationalisation right now so this is really useful.

[...] and the work I’ve been leading at BIS (using consistent templates and a universal top bar to unify multiple sites on a shared CMS) has been a step in that [...]

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