UK Government Website uses WordPress

Posted in News

As someone who worked for the UK Government for 14 years, I was interested to read that on Friday 30th September the UK Government Digital Engagement Team launched the website for the UK Civil Service. This site is the primary means of communicating what the constitutional role of the UK Civil Service is, what it does and the codes it is bound by.

The Civil Service:

  • serves the Government of the day,
  • does not automatically change when the Government does
  • and is bound in all its dealings by the values of integrity, honesty, objectivity and impartiality as laid out by the Civil Service code

The Civil Service has around 450,000 people working in roles all over the country, ranging from the Government Veterinary surgeons, Ministers Private Office’s or administering welfare benefits, all of whom need access to a wide range of information about their pension, job opportunities or professional networks. In addition the site provides information on the role of different organisations and bodies and their performance to ensure the Civil Service remains accountable and transparent.

Managing a site covering all of these needs is no small task. So the coincidence of impending changes to Civil Service recruitment processes and the end of the existing hosting contract for the site provided us an opportunity to revisit the site’s content, design and function. We needed to make sure that it is providing a stable, value for money interim option until it can be encompassed into the ongoing Single Government Domain project.

The old Civil Service site was run by the Cabinet Office digital communications team, using a customised off-the-shelf content management system that worked well when initially applied in 2008 but became increasingly dated and inflexible over time. In addition there were considerable hosting costs from a traditional fixed term contract. As a result we were keen to ensure that the revised site would be in line with both our commitment to open-source and flexible, scalable hosting.

The Digital Engagement team was tasked with producing a new site at very little cost and within a six week window. To restructure the content to make it easier to find we used Google analytics to analyse typical user journeys. Harnessing user insight will be an iterative process through the ongoing development of this site.

The team chose to use WordPress as it offers a simple, quick (with such a short development window) and flexible open source solution to a site primarily designed for publishing content. As such it is easy to use for a wide range of content editors and, of course, provides significant cost savings for maintenance and development. Rather than develop a theme ourselves we chose to use a theme called ‘striking’ developed by Kaptinlin that fitted what we needed with a little customisation.

Using WordPress also means we can tap into the plug-ins that the large WordPress developer community creates to solve problems that would have caused major work. For example using a WP plug-in to amend some of the 30,000+ links that were migrated saved time and stress when faced with a tight deadline. We needed to compress the initial 500 page offering with 2649 media files, the vast majority being.pdf documents, to 320 by using the theme’s tabbing function on pages.