Building a campaigns platform for government

Back in July we embarked on an exciting new project with GDS to build a platform for users across government to create their own campaign websites.

From our experience of working on projects like Exporting is GREAT and Own Your Home, we’ve learned that a significant number of campaigns are simple, low-cost and hosted on GOV.UK. Those which fall outside of this category are more complex and part of a cross-channel campaign with a larger budget, and often built by an external agency. Until now civil servants have been faced with this difficult decision about how much to invest in their campaigns, so we’ve been busy building a new platform to better meet their needs.

From the outset, our goal has been to provide a greater level of consistency and efficiency to the campaign sites that government builds, and to improve the user experience of managing one. The development team are using WordPress to provide users with a set of flexible content blocks to create rich pages with content, videos, images and call to actions. Users can customise their site to match the rest of their campaign’s branding and add social media integrations for Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. We’ve also learnt from building GovSite which also uses flexible content blocks and preconfigured plugins, so users can get started without having any technical skills or previous experience.

One of the biggest challenges we’ve come across is helping users understand where to start, so we’ve been doing lots of user research with civil servants to help us design the workflow around their user needs. We’ve gathered lots of useful insights and held workshops with teams in Ministry of Justice, Environment Agency and the Insolvency Service to test the prototype we’ve built. User needs cover a broad spectrum:

“As the Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, I want to educate people about the safest way to buy medicines, so that I can reduce the number of fake or unlicensed medical products”

Throughout our work we’ve stayed focused on the principles for Government as a Platform and our own thinking about user needs for government campaigns. The platform needs to be easy to adopt, be ready to grow and iterated on, and most importantly, have measurable KPIs. We’ve therefore built the tools for site admins to track and measure user engagement so they can measure the success of their campaign.

In the next few weeks we’ll be deploying the new platform to a production environment so that departments can start using it to create content for their upcoming campaigns. The team will also be preparing for a GDS alpha platform assessment later this month, where we’ll be sharing the journey we’ve been on so far before moving into a private beta phase.