I’m not committing to a 5 minute post. It might be, it might not but the simple fact is I’ve been asked to write this, by someone I have the utmost respect for, and so a job done at all must be done properly.
If you’re reading this blog, I am guessing you don’t need an explanation of what alpha.gov. uk is. I am admittedly way behind the curve on posting about this – though I assure you I have not hesitated in giving @alphagov a monumentally hard time on Twitter. They have done nothing but respond with impeccable patience and commitment is the first thing that I would like to point out.
The second thing is that when I asked them what their future commitment would be to ensuring social media was incorporated into the main Alpha website in every way possible, I received a ‘we don’t know’.
But I promised to focus only on what is there at the moment, not what is not and so;
- Set location doesn’t work if you live in Accrington with my postcode. And I assure you, I do live in Accrington, in the Ward of Scaitcliffe. Not the village of Church. Not a biggy except this site is supposed to be referring out to the relevant local government services for the UK residents and what if Church is administered by a different Council for bin collection than where I actually live? I know this will be resolved and I know there are already discussions happening on implications of location setting even when the postcode dataset is replaced with a correct one – and this discussion is good, is positive and sets the wheels spinning
- I search for unique tax reference code as this is a search which I have actually carried out recently. It returns one result – File your tax return online. As it happens, I didn’t want to do that yet when I searched for this on the main site – I simply wanted to find out what it was and how I got it. Alpha isn’t telling me that.
- Popular Tools and Topics. How is this generated? Is it linked to a Cookie of some kind which tracks my passage and others through the site and then links ‘person x looked at this site or made this search and went on to view page 1, therefore you might want to as well’ algorithm? As it happens, I don’t want to view a guide to Redundancy nor any of the other offerings either.
- Then I notice the Load more search results button. Why didn’t I notice it before? Well, I don’t know. But I didn’t and if I didn’t how many other users wont?
- It doesn’t do anything when you click it. Ah.
- So I follow the only link I am given – File your tax return online. Out pops a box on the right hand side – did I find what I was looking for. Well no I didn’t. But I am on a different path now and so I’m not going to click on it because I’m assuming it will take me away from where I am. And this too is a problem because even had I find the right thing I’d searched for – well I still don’t want to break my workflow at this point to go and tell someone I did find something I searched for. It might not, of course, take me away from the page, but it doesn’t tell me that.
- The more about this service section is fabulous as documented elsewhere. Except where does it tell me what my UTR actually is and how I get one if I don’t have one? Nowhere. And that’s odd, because every other conceivable configuration of question is actually answered on this page and it’s ace.
- Last comment on this page – hyperlinks of National Insurance Number, of Government Gateway ID would be awesome.
- I hit Get Started. Oh. My. Frikking. Eyes.
Other comments stepping out of specific workflows:
- The box at the bottom right hand corner says Bills. I thought ‘Paying my’. It’s not, it’s Bills passing through Parliament. I might be being stupid, mind.
- The adverts – I’ll come to this a bit later but the adverts at the bottom do not fit. I think a different way needs to be found than banners because it’s…akin to shoving an Arts & Crafts coffee table into a 4th floor Docklands Penthouse.
The positive stuff:
- The header section, well not the header but that bit at the top? Lovely. Love the logo, love the fonts, love the layout, actually, though there’s tonnes of white space which sometimes grates a bit with me, but I do know I am alone in that. Help is nicely accentuated and you don’t miss it. Clicking on it takes you to an empty section however, which is a shame.
- As a signpost sight to existing government web estate it is fantastic. It doesn’t irritate me, in fact the user experience, despite the above is a pleasure. I only got lost once – the load more search results button. The UK Government box needs moving and some attention needs paying to the subject headings but this will come.
- Did I mention I love the fonts? I love the fonts. I also love the icons, I mostly love the colour scheme (sort the bottom right box out though).
- Most of all, however, I love the care, love and attention which has been very clearly lavished on this site. Chapeaux.
Finally, accesibility and social media are the two subjects I will pinning people to the wall on. I make no apologies for that, but I do hope the above mitigates the hard times I have given some people. I’m a fan. I’m just….a gobby one.