My new NHS microsite (ssh, it's a blog)

Time to unveil my latest project. Professor Sir Ara (now Lord) Darzi, one of the country’s leading surgeons, was one of Gordon Brown’s ‘government of all the talents’ appointments: he’s been charged with drawing up a vision for the future of the NHS. Yes, it’s another wide-ranging consultation / review process. But to the Department of Health’s great credit, they are very serious about it being driven by NHS staff, and they’re using all the modern tools of engagement to make it a reality.

So over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been building a new web/microsite for them – Our NHS, Our Future. It will be a hub for news about the review’s progress, along with access to supporting documentation and all that. And although you won’t find the word anywhere, it’s being driven by a blogging engine (specifically, Typepad). I’m encouraging the Review Team to keep a steady supply of content going, ideally an item every day if there’s something worth saying. Comment functionality is ready to go, although it’ll take them some time to get up enough confidence to say ‘OK’.

It had to be visually close to the very 2.0-y new NHS site, whilst adhering wherever possible to the old-school NHS web guidelines: not always easy. It had to work in IE6, IE7, Firefox and Safari, and after much anguish, it does – better than the main NHS site. I couldn’t do anything that would be too demanding on the Review Team, as resources are tight and experience limited. There are a few rough edges, including a CSS issue with IE7 which I just can’t fix. And although I’m well pleased with a few visual aspects, like the zebra-striped lists, it would probably benefit from a ‘proper’ designer’s input.

Commissioned, designed, built and launched in under three weeks, and for a ridiculously low cost. I’m delighted to have it as proof that you can do a surprisingly good job of content management with a cheap blogging tool, if you work with it rather than against it. Look out for more web-based innovation from the Review Team in due course, some of it pretty ambitious from what I’m hearing.

9 thoughts on “My new NHS microsite (ssh, it's a blog)”

  1. Nice. Are they hosting it on their existing platform or elsewhere? Three weeks isn’t much time to deploy it on a government web infrastructure!

  2. Hey, nice one! Using existing third-party tools to build a govt. website in less than the obligatory three months – the barbarians are at the gate!

  3. Nice work Simon – is the platform Typepad or the new Movable Type 4 open source jobby?
    Would be interested to know why WordPress wasn’t used?

  4. Quick answers to Dave:
    a) It’s Typepad.
    b) Very simple. Typepad costs £70/year. It’s a ‘petty cash’ purchase for the marketing team. It happens to include hosting, so the marketing team doesn’t have to approach the IT team. It can be set up within hours. Involve the IT team, and they’ll want to spend six months reviewing hosting arrangements, SLAs, etc etc etc.
    Don’t take this as a snub to WordPress. It continues to be my platform of choice… as I may about to prove on an even bigger Whitehall project. More on this later, I hope.

  5. I’m feeling a bit anti-Typepad myself just now. Having done two Typepad-based projects recently, I’m all too aware how many things it doesn’t quite do the way you’d want or expect.

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