‘What would we create if we started completely anew?’ – National Archives to revamp online presence

Written by Sam Trendall on 5 August 2019 in News
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Organisation seeks help to overhaul ‘vast and confusing’ website

Credit: PA

The National Archives is looking to revamp its website in a way that “reimagines our whole offer”.

The government’s official archivist wishes to overhaul a site that it said is currently “vast, confusing, inconsistent, hard to change and expensive to maintain”. It wishes to redesign its online home as if it had “started completely anew”. 

The organisation is seeking a commercial supplier to work with over the course of a six-month project to deliver the discovery and alpha stages of the makeover.

“We need an expert partner to explore, shape, co-create, build and test, in public, a prototype for a new www.nationalarchives.gov.uk website, shaped by user needs,” it said. “We need a fresh eye and fresh thinking, to select and take advantage of technical possibilities, as we co-create a service that meets users’ needs.”


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The National Archives is particularly interested in working with a provider that can help it make the most of cloud-hosted environments.

“We have done some initial analysis of the market and of the applicability of the technologies available, particularly on AWS (Amazon Web Services),” it said. “It’s clear there are lots of people who know much more than we do about how to take best advantage of cloud capabilities, so we are looking for experienced help.  From our research, we believe modern technologies offer the potential to fundamentally rethink how we deliver our website, for example using static content management, search services such as Elasticsearch, and modern development frameworks.”

The archive said that most of its website visitors arrive via a Google search and find themselves “baffled [and] lacking the mental model they need to use a large archival catalogue for research”. This, the contract notice added, is not helped by a bloated library of resources designed to help users, which contains 450 research guides and other documents.

“Interpretive content, designed to attract new audiences, is disconnected and scattered,” the National Archives said.

Bids for the project are open until midnight on 16 August, with work scheduled to commence on 1 October. The National Archives expects to evaluate five potential suppliers, with the winning bidder set to be awarded a deal worth £500,000.

 

About the author

Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology

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