Following reports of thousands of parents struggling to access subsidised childcare as the result of a glitchy website, the Flaunt team discuss the importance of good website design. Why not subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest industry news and updates?
See below for a full video transcription.
Jamie: Yeah, so the first thing is this glitchy childcare website that’s been in the press recently on the BBC website. It’s to do with people trying to claim childcare benefits back from the government-made website. Now the government have a load of problems with these websites. I don’t know who keeps putting these projects out, but they have a lot of trouble, I mean, historically any website with tax relief or claiming benefits, you know, it’s had a lot of problems. They’ve recently revamped a lot of it. It’s come a long way, but you still you got struggles with people putting all these IDs that they’ve got to remember, and passwords and it just seems to be never-ending. These projects just seem destined to fail from day one really, which is a shame. But I don’t really know what’s going wrong. The article I’ve been reading, it doesn’t really shed much light on the exact problem and the exact website even. But it just seems like whenever a government tries to launch a web-based initiative it just seems to have problems, doesn’t it?
Lee: Well it has issues from the start as well, but this article I highlighted in the BBC says that it’s been live for eight months and it’s still not working. Which isn’t good enough really for such an important thing. A lot of complaints from people. And I think it just highlights the importance of getting it right from the off, setting up on staging, testing everything as much as possible before it even goes live to mitigate any issues. Commercial pressure, obviously, from the government’s perspective, but yeah.
Jamie: Yeah, the government seems to be one of those establishments people love to hate when it comes to tech. You know, they’ve had a couple of bashings with the NHS digital projects over the years and stuff. Just seems like they need to be going the extra mile, like, focus groups and research, you know, and all that kind of stuff in terms of getting it right before it goes out, because it’s just…reputation just takes a beating every time it seems.
Chris: Trouble is, it’s quite a touchy subject and people are trying to get their benefits for this kind of thing. There’ll be families that are desperately needing to get hold of this childcare and, you know, if it’s taking eight months to get it to work, there’s going to be quite a lot of frustrated families out there, I imagine.
Jamie: Yep. I guess there’s another facet to this in making sure your offline part is good enough, because I know they’ve said people have rang up a hundred times to get it sorted. It shouldn’t take a hundred times, should it, it should take one.
Lee: If your website’s going to fail the customer support needs to be on point.
Jamie: Yeah, definitely.
Chris: I think every government service, they’re always slow to react aren’t they?
Jamie: It seems so disjointed, too. It just seems like whenever there’s one of these projects up for grabs, they just give it to…it’s like they just pick someone out of the hat and give it to them. There’s no, like, official partner. It’s not as if they’ve got an in-house team or even a, you know, like I said, an official partner that can distribute those projects to…and the same people are accountable. Learn from your mistakes, that type of thing. It seems like they give it to a new company each time, try their luck, and the same mistakes get repeated. So might be a lesson learnt there, in terms of picking a dev partner, or a website partner, or an IT partner. Just sort of using them over and over again and getting a relationship and a bit of trust there. Might be able to unify these…you know, going back to what I said a minute ago about IDs, the amount of IDs that you have for government websites, whether it’s paying tax or whatever, just massive strings of numbers. It’s like, “What are these things? Can I just have one that works everywhere?”
Chris: Maybe it’s intentional, maybe they don’t wanna fork out. Maybe a bit tight.
Jamie: It would be good to just have one. I think they have tried to do a gov.uk login portal, trying to do a single sign-on thing for all these services. But I’m not sure if this uses it. Sounds like if it does, then they’re having trouble with that itself. But, yeah, they don’t really tell you exactly which websites are having the problems, probably trying to keep it out of the public eye a little bit and stop everyone else jumping on it.
Chris: Have they released a statement or anything saying what they’re gonna do to deal with issue or?
Jamie: Doesn’t look like it. No. Yeah, they’ve done a lot though haven’t they? The government keeps sort of redoing these projects and there’s a lot done with the tax for your car, vehicle tax, they’ve redone all that. That seems to have gone quite smoothly.
Lee: Yeah, that’s pretty good, actually, in my experience. Well, you don’t do it anymore do you.
Jamie: Well, you do it online, that’s what I mean. So it just happens through direct debit, doesn’t it? Yeah, it seems to have gone all right. But you can see with the design UI, it’s almost like Google rolling out the material design stuff. You can see on the new government web projects, they all look the same, they’re all really flat with the same font and stuff. It’s similar to what they did over in America a few years ago in…healthcare.gov, was it, that they redid? Massive hooha about that. Didn’t they build it and strip it back down and start again. Got loads of really well accredited devs on it, didn’t they get some Google guys and stuff and sorted it out. Yeah, seems like that kinda thing happens in governments when they distribute these projects out.