Looking for government information online will inevitably bring the researcher into contact with the GOV.UK website or one of the many other sites in the GOV.UK domain. With the site in its third year, it is worth looking at the corresponding data and guidance provided by the Government Digital Service as part of its transparency programme. This can certainly be useful when trying to work out where information might be located and to keep a weather eye on trends in government information management.
The main site was launched in 2012 as the keystone of the Digital By Default agenda with the intention of bringing government information and public services together into one online portal. As the websites were consolidated, the total number of individual central government websites was reduced; however many individual websites for agencies, services and projects remain. In addition to these there are also the numerous local government organisations, statutory bodies and regional agencies who are entitled to use the GOV.UK domain (3238 at the last count).
Helpfully the Government Digital Service provide a list of all the GOV.UK domain names annually and the most recent edition was published on 1 October. Since this list includes every website with a GOV.UK domain name, GDS also provide a list of the extant central government websites on a quarterly basis. Currently there are 290 websites allocated to central government departments, agencies and projects.
It is also worthwhile looking at the guidance provided to the content providers themselves, since this underpins the structure and design of every site on the GOV.UK domain. GDS published the Government Service Design Manual with which each site must comply and there are guidance notes available for organisations when registering domain names.
GDS are currently soliciting feedback on the Design Manual so if you have any strong views on the current look and feel of the GOV.UK domain and its websites, you can always respond via their short survey.
Thanks to Gavin Boughton, Defence Geographic Centre Librarian and SCOOP Member for his help with the links in this post.
Steven Hartshorne, Information and Enquiry Service Officer, Bolton Library and Museum Services / Secretary of SCOOP