Designs for the future
The launch of our new site design went well – and I’m thankful to say it has also been well received so far.
We’ve received a lot of good feedback from staff and the public.
We are of course aware that no website is ever perfect, but are very encouraged by the first step.
We had some issues with broken links due to moving pages around the site. The team have been working hard to resolve these, but if you notice anything please let us know.
What are we doing next?
If you think of a website as being made of three layers, the only thing we’ve done so far is change the top layer – the design.
The other layers we now need to change are:
- content, and
Why do we need a complete change of content?
Currently, the organisation has content not only published on its main website, but a lot of useful information is still on the old websites that Natural Resources Wales inherited from its precursor organisations.
All of the old and the newer content now needs revising into one coherent whole. Across all websites we currently have near to 8,000 pages of published content. Any website starts becoming unnavigable if it’s more than 500 pages in size. If you think that’s a hard task, that’s probably because it is.
We can’t just migrate some choice pages across:
- there isn’t enough room on the new site for all of it
- the style of writing would not be consistent
- it would not cover Natural Resources Wales’ expanded remit
So what is going to happen?
We’re going to look very closely at what we do have, use our knowledge of what we have a statutory duty to publish, what you find useful, and what we feel is important for us to publish, and produce an entirely new site structure and site content. We may not get it perfectly correct, but it’ll be a big step forward from where we are.
As we’re developing our thinking on this we’ll share our plans and we’d welcome feedback on whether we’re on the right track.
You mentioned something about technology?
While we recognise that our content needs work, the same is true of our technology. The current system we use behind the scenes to control the content is more than a few years old, and in web terms, that’s an age. Google were three men in a garage just 15 years ago.
We need a new platform for our website that’ll be ready to grow as the organisation does.
It won’t be immediately obvious to you that anything’s changed behind the scenes, as we’re not going to be building any new functionality – just replacing the site we currently have. The pay-off comes after this phase of work will complete, when the next developments can be done efficiently, quickly and reliably – rather than not at all.
By when is all of this happening?
The current plan is to release the new work in March 2015. It’s going be a busy period of work for all of us involved, but the reward will be in launching a website that will finally have all three layers: design; content and technology – ready for the future.
We’ll bring you more updates on how our content and technology challenges are coming along over the coming months.