If you started today, you would never build what we’ve got. You would build Alphagov.

We’re mere days away from the big reveal of Alphagov, the prototype ‘single domain’ website which will set a challenging vision of what a unified, user-focused front end to UK government could look like.

I’ve been relatively close to the project, from unofficial chats with project lead Tom Loosemore and others in dingy Lambeth North pubs before the thing had a name, to more formal advice lately on how Departments do their digital communications – and how Alphagov could help them do it better. (Though if I’m honest, an index card saying “F*** IE6” is the contribution I’m proudest of).

Without giving the game away too much, here’s a taste of what’s coming to a browser near you soon, and some speculation on the stir it will surely cause.

What can we expect?

So what’s not to love?

From where I’m sitting: nothing. Both in a personal capacity and as head of a central government web team, I see many more positives than negatives in the move to a single domain, for the reasons I gave before. If you started today, you would never build what we’ve got. You would build Alphagov.

More objectively though, people will have concerns – I’ve heard some aired already along the lines of it being too big to work for all users of government services, too ambitious, too much change from the familiar, or too optimistic about  simplifying the long tail of government comms and customer relationships.

People might say: define government, define UK, define website. Some might ask: where’s the business case, what’s the publishing platform, what will it cost to scale up to full production? People inside government, myself included, will want to know what it means for their jobs.

All valid concerns, all questions that need answers – but let’s remember the point of the prototype is to drive out these issues, test the theory, show what’s possible, and be able to have a constructive and open discussion based on a common understanding of an actual thing rather than some ambiguous words and ideas.

Want to know more?

Visit:
The alphagov blog: http://blog.alpha.gov.uk/
The alphagov twitter account: @alphagov
The alphagov team on Twitter: http://blog.alpha.gov.uk/team
These choicey posts on team members’ personal blogs: one by Paul and another by Relly.

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Comments

That’s a pretty big if though. Not to denegrate what you’ve done… Looking forward to the actual thing

It’s HUGE! But exciting. The logical conclusion of where a lot of the development minor government webbies have been playing with, commissioning, experimenting with for a long time. It feels like the end of one story but the start of another.

PS – Adam, thought you were on leave? Go back to the beach!

I can’t wait to see the result. Ever since my short stint at DIUS as a PM I’ve wondered why Govt can’t get content, design and dev in the same room to crank out quick and simple answers to user needs.

As for the concerns, here’s my 2p worth. I don’t think Alpha needs to work for all users of government, rather the vast majority who want to book a driving test, pay their tax etc. The business case is that a lot of this is too bluddy complicated right now and it doesn’t need to be.

The publishing platform is what can be procured simply and cheaply (same goes for updates). Scale is about server capacity rather than pages of risk assessments and the bureaucracy to oversee it all.

I’m keen to see what Alphagov makes of government news and policy. I’ve done a bit of work on this – OK in itself but I missed the bigger picture.

I’m hugely excited by this from the peeks I’ve had in the Department of Health. This is a great summary of what we can expect, and what might still need to be done.
I think the hard work is yet to come though – selling Alphagov into those who are less enthused or more cautious.

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[...] If you started today, you would never build what we’ve got. You would build Alphagov >> … [...]

[...] If you started today, you would never build what we’ve got. You would build Alphagov >> … [...]

[...] different pool, from outside of government web circles. The idea is to give a blank sheet of paper (as others have said) to people who are approaching the conundrum, not the situation. The whole approach to the project [...]

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