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One quarter of the government's websites will be scrapped as part of cost cutting measures which will aim to save the Treasury £100m. 

A Public Accounts Committee report finds that some central government websites are too expensive, while a third fail to meet the government's own accessibility standards. One website, for UK Trade and Industry, was found to cost £11.78 per visit.

This UK trade website cost a total of £4.7m to build and run, and has been visited by just 399,501 users, which equates to 28,085 per month. 

Another expensive website, and the most expensive of any on the list was Business Link, which provides advice for UK businesses. This site cost £35.78m and attracted 16.7m visits last year, 1.6m visits per month, at £2.15 per visit. 

You might think that a site costing £35m would be an incredibly useful and valuable resource, but the Business Link website looks outdated, and some of the information contained on internet marketing is out of date. The money could clearly have been better spent. 

Other findings from the report include: 

  • A quarter of government organisations did not know the costs of their websites and had no consistent way of measuring and reporting cost.
  • 16% of government organisations had no information on how their websites were being used. 
  • A third of all government websites did not comply with government’s own user accessibility standards and all should meet the requisite standards by 2011.
  • The total costs of the 46 government websites in the study came to £128m. The total number of visits was 568m. This comes to roughly 23p per visit. 
Graham Charlton

Published 25 June, 2010 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

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Tony Barker

Tony Barker, Director & Founder at eEnablement - Online Interim Management & ConsultancySmall Business

Interesting that by comparison Direct.gov (the government's destination portal for "citizens" where Directlink is destination potal for businesses, as defined in the web rationalisation strategy) cost £26.1m and generated 143.4m visits ie at cost of 18p per visit. Significantly these figures exclude any marketing/advertising costs to drive users to the sites (Direct.gov has benefited from significant marketing/advertising spend over the last 12 months) - but even so scale of differences in cost per visit is very significant.

Content quality issues may be rlated to the fact that the report quotes less than 12 FTEs spending more than 50% of their time on the Businesslink website vs 145 on Direct.gov! Draw your own conclusions.

Tony Barker (currently completing online interim role within public sector!)

over 6 years ago

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Kate Wooding

Tony - interesting points, and I have to say that I agree that Directgov has been much better advertised as THE one-stop-shop for citizens than Businesslink has been for business (I only found out that BusinessLink was the equivalent of Directgov the other week!). What I think is more worrying is that so much has been spent on developing these two websites when the functionality that they provide is not great - I think they'll soon look out of date and past it. What I think Directgov and BusinessLink should be used for is SIGNPOSTING people to the relevant govt website, or where the info can be found on another site, rather than trying to hold all that information on those 2 central sites. Would be interesting to know if the internal costs (of the internal web team etc) are included in these costs, or if they only include what's been spent with external agencies.

over 6 years ago

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Robert G

The sums of money are a bit mind boggling - £35m on a (albeit pretty big) website - you would clearly not get away with that in the private sector, and feels like a combination of writing big cheques to agencies who are milking it for all they are worth, and the lack of drive in public sector projects (easily justified as scope enhancement) - i.e. paying endless rate card rates for projects that scope creep all year long! 

over 6 years ago

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ruth

The problem here is bad management and unlimited budgets. As the owner of a small web design company myself the outlay always has to be considered in proportion to the return required to justify - the ROI. To spend this amount of money on a non profit government website is criminal. What other company in the uk would consider this kind of outlay without any kind of business plan? It doesnt make sense. Obviously they have to have a larger budget, but 37.5ml ? is madness. This is bad government at the core. The information on the site is good, but at what cost? More grants direct to struggling businesses - which all ran out last year, would have been more beneficial to the government coffers and business alike. All the info on the site is available elsewhere to any business owner.

over 6 years ago

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Paul Jones

 From an insiders viewpoint - I recently worked there as a consultant (name changed) and was completely shocked by how much money was wasted. Each person is allocated a "subject" and instead of developing any content in house, everything is outsourced to agencies who send back bog standard copy. In fact, anything that can be outsourced is to expensive agencies - and a ridiculous amount is spent on adwords.

The content management system is totally outdated and the website completely uninspired without any user content. A smaller, more innovative organisation could do something 1000 times better with a third of the budget.

A recent spend of tens of thousands on a branded YouTube channel was another interesting use of tax payers money - some of the video content is indeed good and useful - but it is sometimes hard to justify where money is spent. A recent spate of cuts and inevitable redundancies for some staff make the flippant spend on money all the more distasteful.

A site like Businesszone does everything BusinessLink should do, but 1000 times better.

over 6 years ago

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Anonymous

What has not been made clear is that the businesslink.gov site was sub-contracted to Serco in 2005 after a very 'strange' tendering process. At the time, some people suggested that Serco was paid over the odds to take the site on - together with some DTI bigwigs (say no more). Oh, and BT ran the back-end and did very nicely out of it also, as they had Serco by the short and curlies. So, it is, in effect, in the private sector where it would appear that Serco, which has made a fortune out of government contracts, has done likewise with this one too. Of course, this is only conjecture and speculation!!!! 

over 6 years ago

David Cranley

David Cranley, Partner at Viridian Partnership LLP

The £6.25m "Strategy & Planning" cost for the Business Link site is a particular expense that's of a scale I find hard to comprehend. As others have already pointed out, this surely points to gross incompetence and/or corruption? MP's expenses are trivial compared to these amounts, so why isn't there more about this in the mainstream media?

over 6 years ago

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