Innovative & skilful: it's The Business

New BIS website
On reflection, if you’re going to put two of the most forward-thinking people in e-government into the same department, great things are probably to be expected. BERR (as was)‘s Neil and DIUS (as was)‘s Steph put their heads together on Monday afternoon, and on Wednesday, they launched a new corporate website for the newly-created Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. It’s based on WordPress, with a bit of RSS magic, and the help of a few (free) web-based tools. And it’s brilliant.
Steph documents the work with characteristic modesty:

It won’t win any design awards, and the downside to Heath Robinson web development will no doubt be some quirks in reliability. But happily, we can say we haven’t spent a penny on external web development or licencing costs, and we got something up within 3 days. Compared to the static, hand-coded site DIUS had for the first 18 months of its life, it’s a start, and a little bit innovative too.

Actually, I like the design: it’s forcibly simple, but that’s no bad thing, and is something they should try to maintain in the long run. There may be quirks; but that doesn’t make it any worse than some of the £multi-million CMSes in Whitehall. Yes of course it’s work in progress, but isn’t everything – or rather, shouldn’t it be?
I can’t think of a better case study for the power of open source, web tools, pretty much everything I bang on about here. And if my work for the Wales Office was any kind of inspiration, I’m delighted to have been a part of it.
Oh, and just for the record… that’s now the Prime Minister’s office and the Deputy Prime Minister First Secretary of State’s department running their websites on WordPress. I’m just saying… 😉

8 thoughts on “Innovative & skilful: it's The Business”

  1. Does that mean that BERR’s old Rythmyx powered monstrosity is not going to be live any longer and everything will move over to WordPress…?

  2. And though you don’t say it here, you did tell us so, back when DIUS was first set up and needed a site in a hurry. So while your advice wasn’t heeded then, I think there’s been enough change in digital thinking around Whitehall since to make WordPress a palatable option now, which is in no small part your influence.
    @Jon: it’s too early to say. To be honest, I’m still not convinced that a WordPress-powered site on the scale that would be needed is feasible, but we’ll be looking at CMS infrastructures of course as the two organisations complete the merger. But as I’m always saying, it’s not all about the corporate site these days, is it?

  3. I think WordPress can do it, but only if you embrace the blogging metaphor.
    The top layer could be 50% navigation, 50% ‘general corporate information’ (including news/press); beneath that, you’d effectively have a series of ‘team blogs’, ‘project blogs’, etc. And in fact, since those lower pages are generally only of interest to subject geeks who will want to have a chronological presentation of latest news, and will want to contribute and participate, it’s probably the right thing to do anyway.

  4. Depends to what extent the e-comms people win (hence WP would be enough), or to what extent the rest of the staff win (i.e. each wanting their own info on the site, even if no-one reads it) – if it’s the latter then WP might be complex.
    This might be one for some investment for both of you two: program a page management plugin for WP (I don’t think one exists) that makes the management of hundreds of pages easier in the backend. That’s the real strength of Typo3, my open source business orientated CMS of choice. Happy to provide logins for a demo site if it would be of any use to you.

  5. That Rythmyx monstrosity (your words, I couldn’t possibly comment!) was for the scrapheap anyway. Before BIS happened, BERR was in the middle of a re-tender. Technology is a relatively small part of good content management I’d say, though. Business processes and responsive, cost-effective support come higher on the list. And against the backdrop of web convergence, I’m not sure WP is features-rich and scaleable enough to provide the solid web 1.0 backbone you need for enterprise use.
    But I am a huge fan, and WP was perfect for this interim site – and perfect for many other uses beyond plain old blogging, to which both BERR and DIUS were putting it and BIS will continue to do so long as I (or, clearly, Steph) have anything to do with it.

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