Technology

Gov.uk service portal opens for public testing

Gov.uk website
Image caption The site intends to simplify finding and interacting with government services online

A website which aims to bring government services together under a single web address has been launched as a public trial.

Thegov.ukproject, which is expected to launch in full later this year, has a budget of £1.7m.

Currently, online government services are spread across multiple domains and managed by different teams.

The government claimed that bringing services together in this way could save up to £50m per year.

This saving is said to come from making operational savings by "removing the costs associated with software licences and infrastructure investment".

However, when contacted by the BBC, the Cabinet Office could not give specific details over where those savings would be made.

The site uses a simple search engine-like interface to tie the government's vast portfolio of websites together.

Users have beeninvited to test the new website and report any bugs or usability issues.

The website advises that while gov.uk is fully-functional, some aspects may be "inaccurate or misleading" while still in the beta stage.

'Simple to use'

The Cabinet Office told the BBC that the full public release of gov.uk was planned for some time later this year once extensive user testing and feedback had been gathered.

A decision over what will happen to the government's existing portal -directgov- has not yet been made.

"Digital public services should be easy to find and simple to use," said Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office, in a press release.

"The beta release of a single domain takes us one step closer to this goal.

"Our approach is changing. IT needs to be commissioned or rented, rather than procured in huge, expensive contracts of long duration.

"We are embracing new, cloud-based start-ups and enterprise companies - this will bring benefits for small- and medium-sized enterprises here in the UK and so contribute to growth."

'Pretty looking icon'

The UK's "digital champion", Martha Lane Fox - who has been asked to find ways to get more people online - welcomed the revamp.

"The beta release of gov.uk is a fantastic milestone in this government's ambition to become a digital world leader and dramatically change the focus of public service delivery onto the end user," she said.

However, Geoff McCormick, director of the UK-based design company TheAlloy, said the revamp did little to solve existing problems.

"The new gov.uk site is an improvement on the direct.gov site, but the bar wasn't set too high in the first place," he told the BBC.

"Once you have navigated away from the front page, it is back to business as usual - the same information architecture, but with a 'pretty looking icon' next to it.

"They do not make it easier to navigate in any way."

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