Unneeded council domains should be shut down in a bid to ensure all government related services can be found at a gov.uk domain (whether GOV.UK or a local authority one), says Evans Bissessar of the GDS.
Bissessar has previously written about auditing all gov.uk domains belonging to local authorities, the devolved government and locally related services.
He examined thousands of domains to to see if their websites breached their “current guidance of being inaccessible, not functional, or leading to a non-government domain”. In order to maintain users’ trust in GOV.UK, he then contacted domain owners whose websites didn’t meet the guidelines, asking them to make the changes needed.
What’s being done?
Bissessar is currently collaborating with government departments, big search engines and the service’s legal team to eliminate domains/URLs that pretend to be GOV.UK (or the former DirectGov website).
“These sites dupe users into paying fees for government services that are often free or much cheaper on our official sites, e.g. EHIC, passport, driving licence, car tax,” he said.
The aim is to ensure all government related services can be found at a gov.uk domain, and if a local authority does already have one they should use it.
The simpler, the better
Having recently supported a local housing associated by helping residents gain basic IT skills, it has become clear to Bissessar that, when it comes to local authority services, people want a “simple user journey”.
“When it comes to local authority websites, users don’t care about the name of a campaign. They just want a simple, online presence to pay, report, request, apply, or understand something,” he said.
As a result of this, there is a “prime opportunity” to encourage local authorities to shut down old domains and merge their different services under the main site.
The blog post added that, as only public sector bodies can own a gov.uk domain, there is no risk of cybersquatting – the registering of names as internet domains and potentially reselling them to make a profit.