Hello! I have recently joined GOV.UK as Head of Technology, and what an exciting time to be joining! We’re moving into a new chapter for GOV.UK and looking at making big changes over the next few years. You may have read about some of what’s coming up already, but it all means a lot of intricate technology work is about to kick off.
We want you to join GOV.UK
We have close to 50 great technologists across our teams: developers, technical architects, site reliability engineers. They do an amazing job of building, improving and running one of the most high profile in-house platforms anywhere in the public or private sector.
But now we need to grow that community to help us transform GOV.UK to deliver dynamic and personalised content.
We need more developers to work in our multidisciplinary teams, alongside designers, user researchers and other roles. We need technical architects who can understand and adapt to emerging architecture needs. And we need reliability engineers who can evolve our infrastructure and tooling to support all of this while maintaining resilience and making it easy to diagnose problems.
We have a culture of learning by doing and learning from our mistakes. We don’t assign blame, we review together when things go wrong and improve collectively from it. We work in the open and publish incident reports where we can.
We’re open and inclusive, want you to bring your authentic self to work and support ways of working that allow you to create the right work/life balance for you. We have hubs in Bristol, Manchester and London, and we particularly welcome applicants from the south west and north west and are excited to grow our presence in these regions.
In the coming months we’ll be writing in more detail about how we do development, architecture and reliability engineering, and you’ll get to hear directly from the talented team.
So why are we growing?
Personalisation and dynamic content
Offering personalised interactions on GOV.UK will let us give users content and services that are most relevant to them, allow easier return journeys and also let users find what they’re looking for easily. We will have opportunities to join up GOV.UK for the user, based on behaviours and preferences, with a strong emphasis on privacy and user consent. This will provide a more seamless and tailored experience through desktop, tablet and mobile and other device types. We aim to be channel-agnostic.
Personalisation means we have to transform the existing applications, architecture and infrastructure to support dynamic content. Right now GOV.UK publishes and serves “static” content - pages which are published and served up and then kept in a cache to be served up again very quickly. We make heavy use of this to support big spikes in traffic, like we had recently when we had more than 3 million users at the same time! We can do this because the pages don’t change that often.
But personalised content is dynamic and doesn’t work like that. Large parts of a page may be different depending on the snippets of content that relate to a user’s preferences or other information. The “page” is stitched together live and sent out.
We have our own publisher (several in fact). This is used by our in-house content teams as well as all the content creators at other departments and agencies across government. Currently this supports a streamlined workflow of creating, editing, reviewing and publishing pages.
Now we need to rethink this from the ground up, from workflow to publishing. Dynamic content means tagging, categorising and making sure content is structured and “context-aware.” Rather than pages we need to think in ‘atomic design’ terms. This means thinking in varying sizes of content with “atoms” being the smallest building blocks forming larger “templates” and full “pages”: all customisable, reusable and served “on the fly” depending on the context. Templates which support multiple alternative pieces - and the logic and data to determine which piece should be used when and how.
To support all this, applications and components need to be rewritten, and new ones created. Architecture has to be reviewed, overhauled and evolved incrementally. The underlying infrastructure needs to be more nimble to support the experimentation needed to get this right. We also need to allow for the increase in load on our applications, as we won’t be able to cache pages as heavily or easily in future.
These are big changes but we can do this. We have the technology, the skills and the people. But we need more!
Come join us
We’re hiring at all levels in Bristol, Manchester and London. More roles will go live soon! Read our GDS career page to find out more about working here, and there are lots of blog posts about different aspects of working life. Here’s just a few to get you started:
- Chucks Iwuagwu, former Head of Delivery at GOV.UK, writes about his time at GDS
- Helen Nickols, Senior Content Designer at GOV.UK, writes about balancing working and parenting
- Chris Ashton, Developer on GOV.UK, on what he likes about the job