The Department for International Development have been working on their new website for a long time. The old one was certainly in need of attention, so it’s great that the new one has finally launched, and is a vast improvement.
The site is really nicely designed. It’s clean and uncluttered, and the navigation is nicely organised: we have a particular interest in consultations, so it’s nice to see a link right up front in the main menu for those. They’re often quite hard to find. More on that later!
The content in general is great — really descriptive of the work that DFID do. A few clicks took me right to a very informative page about Africa and China’s burgeoning trade relationship: useful information, in a sensible place, that was easy to find and digest. Breakout boxes for key facts combined with summaries of their work and links to download more detailed documents. Just right. The Fighting Poverty pages deserve a special mention, with Ajax used to great effect.
The site ties in reasonably well with other services, with links and embedded content on the front page for Flick, YouTube and Facebook. It’s always nice to see government making use of these: the Flickr link took me to this lovely shot of a junk stall in Nairobi… but I’ll save the photography appreciation for another time.
The front page also prominently features content from the excellent DFID bloggers, and has easy-to-spot links to RSS feeds for their news stories. Unfortunately, news and speeches seem to be the only RSS feeds that they offer, so they could certainly do more there: RSS for consultation documents and other publications would be useful, as would ones for job vacancies and imminent procurement exercises. Their RSS feeds aren’t included in their page’s meta information, either, so there’s no browser integration. That’s a pretty bad oversight, given that an icon in the browser’s address bar is how most people notice that an RSS feed is available.
Their consultations page also seems to have been neglected. The structure of the page is poor, and in the absence of any RSS for consultations, we probably still won’t be able to add their consultations to TellThemWhatYouThink. There are other good opportunities for public information reuse on the site as well, like structured access to data about who and what they’re funding, and to what amount. This seems to have been completely overlooked.
The new site is a fantastic improvement over the old one: but there’s certainly more that could be done. We were in touch with DFID earlier in 2008 about improving their consultation pages. Now that the new site has landed, we’ll have another go!