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7 different types of closed

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Product changes, Working with us

Government publishers can now more accurately describe to users what’s happened to ‘closed’ organisations. This blogpost tells you how we’ve modelled the changes, and what government publishers should do now.

When ‘closed’ isn’t quite right

Every now and then, government adjusts how it’s structured. Organisations are absorbed into others, split into parts, abolished, devolved, renamed.

For example, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) recently replaced the Driving Standards Agency (DSA) and the Vehicle and Operator Standards Agency (VOSA).

When this happens, it’s important we keep a record of the 'old' organisation on GOV.UK. Users may, for example, still be searching for it, and its publications are likely to be needed as a historical record.

At the same time, though, it’s important we make it clear to users that it's no longer part of government.

hm court old
The HM Court service 'closed' page as was

Our way of doing this up to now, however, has been a bit blunt.  Our publishing systems automatically stuck up a ‘This organisation is closed’ banner, which for some organisations was inaccurate or - at the least - misleading.

For example, although the Court Service was absorbed into HM Courts and Tribunals Service, this wasn’t clear to users at a glance.

7 different flavours of closed

We’ve now hopefully gone some way to fixing this.

We’ve introduced different ways of describing ‘closed’ that suit organisations which have:

  • merged
  • split
  • been replaced
  • changed their name
  • become independent of government
  • devolved to regional government
hm court service - new
The HM Court Service 'closed' page as it is now

The details are set out in the GOV.UK publisher manual.

But it means, for example, that we can now describe HM Courts Service as pictured.

What to do next

We’ve already reviewed and updated the ‘closed’ description for former government departments - as well as a few other organisations which were causing particular confusion.

Departmental digital teams should now:

  • take a look at our new publishing guidance for closed organisations
  • review (in Publisher) the list of ‘closed’ organisations associated with their department
  • if changes for accuracy are needed, prioritise changes to the most prominent organisations

We’re also happy to take questions or comments on how this works.

Sharing and comments

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  1. Comment by Graham Lee posted on

    Hi Graham,

    Still not convinced of value of these pages, given that comparatively few users will be interested in the history of how these organisations have evolved. Why not simply reroute people to the correct organisation, or relevant, up-to-date content?

    Main issue is that the pages on obsolete organisations clog up search results and add an extra link for those searching for content to solve a more pressing need in the here-and-now, rather than historic stuff (old annual reports, etc) they can find out elsewhere, such as the National Archives website.

    I understand that these 'closed' pages are going to be relegated further down the page in results, but they could still cause confusion and longer user journeys for those looking for topical information.

    Incidentally, page in the example still isn't quite right, when it refers to 'HM Court Service': HM Courts Service (with plural 'Courts') replaced the Court Service and the Magistrates' Courts Service in 2005, and then merged with the Tribunals Service to form HM Courts & Tribunals Service in 2011.



    • Replies to Graham Lee>

      Comment by Graham Francis posted on

      Hi Graham, cheers for the comment. You're right that we don't want 'closed' orgs clogging up search, and that we'll do work to demote these. But in general we're keeping to the principle that GOV.UK should be its own archive - if a document exists at a certain URL, it should stay there forever, even if the result is gradually deprecated. For example, there is some value in continuing to group together all the documents issued by DSA, so that its publications are still available if needed.

      We'll change the HM Court Service example.