The new website of the Congress for 1.6 million euros is not a waste, it is a lost opportunity
December 2020 closed, among other controversies and tensions, with the announcement of the new website of the Congress of Deputies, renovated after fourteen years with the same design and making the premiere coincide with Constitution Day. This renewal should have come a year earlier, but the double dissolution of the Cortes due to the electoral repetition and the subsequent pandemic upset all the plans.
The redesign has finally arrived, and as often happens with these releases, He did not do it without controversy. According to the ideological cut of the consulted newspaper, it could be read as news without much to scratch or as the umpteenth example of waste, since the cost was 1.6 million euros. The rest of the conversation is the history of digital lies, with no result in terms of a consensus on whether its cost was adequate or if instead the Government paid hake at the price of seafood on Christmas Eve.
More than a redesign, less than a paradigm shift
A glance at the web allows us to verify that at least at first glance there has not been a major renovation, at least on the outside. At least one does not appreciate a design language typical of these times, but one that fits that could happen as implemented before 2010. There are icons that respond to different styles, there is also no typographic cohesion and even the icons that lead to social networks Institutional institutions could be the equivalent in design to the traditional expression “each one of a father and a mother”.
It is possible that the redesign of this website has much deeper roots and are the ones that begin to contextualize the disbursement. The announcement of the bankruptcy procedure was published in the BOE in November 2017, just three years before the inauguration and with the previous Government at the head of the Cortes.
In July 2018 the award to GFI Informática was made public for 1.6 million euros (VAT included), who prevailed over Telefónica as the only opponent in the list of supported companies and after leaving the excluded list a Informática El Corte Inglés, Ricoh Spain, Everis or Indra, among others.
Thus, it was GFI Informática who had to be in charge of the redesign according to the list of administrative clauses and technical requirements, which already hinted that it was a project that went far beyond a simple redesign. Namely:
- Development of the new Congress website.
- New content management tool (CMS).
- Server infrastructure for web development, pre-production and production.
- Content migration.
- External security audit.
- Training and technology transfer of the project.
- Warranty, maintenance and support for at least three years from delivery, for both software and hardware, including telephone assistance or delivery of new versions of contracted products at no additional cost.
On this journey to understanding whether that redesign was priced appropriately or not, Beatriz Belmonte, specialist in service design and govtech, leave a lapidary phrase to change the course: “We should not stop at the price, the solution is not to cut. It is not enough to search for cheaper proposals and constantly think that the awards are inflated. It is necessary to think that it is necessary to change the way of doing design in the public administration, and seek efficiency. What we cannot do is have websites published because worse is nothing, that is the place where we cannot settle. “
Regarding his assessment of the price paid, he emphasizes that he does it “taking into account that what is seen is not the same as the work that has been done”, and that it is based on the fact that similar websites, without transactionality (which does not allow executing transactions, whether monetary or of other types), “it could cost a private company around one million euros, perhaps not half a million more, but it is an estimate without fully knowing the implications of the specifications, where licenses enter , physical equipment, servers, accommodation, maintenance … “.
“We must not stay in the price […], we must think that it is necessary to change the way of doing design in public administration “
On the web he believes that “it is an occurrence as an isolated element, something that happens in a way that is alien to the rest. If you open the web of the Senate, or the Tax Agency, of the Social Security … you will see that each one has a different design, a different interaction system, and although perhaps they share things, at the level of visual language or content there is no consistency, and the experience is usually disastrous, they are pages containing links that generate cascading routes to other pages that lead to a PDF, and this is an accessibility issue. “
Maria Izquierdo, strategy and services designer at Public Value, agrees with Beatriz. “It is my perspective and I have not looked at 100% of the web, in general it looks like a redesign, it is something congruent with what is currently in the administration and the lack of understanding about digital technology, and how to make public bodies function in the digital age. “
María points out that the content and the architecture of the information “assumes a lot of knowledge on the part of the users when browsing.” “There is a lot of information buried in PDFs, this makes the information more difficult to find, use and maintain compared to HTML, as well as creating accessibility problems.” There are also distorted images or no alternative text, which is what their content describes to the blind. The same is true for labels such as the banner of the cookies.
“The typography and its hierarchy is inconsistent throughout the web, with different styles and animations. The ‘educational portal’ has a different structure than the rest. It is not very legible and the contrast of the color of the text with the background is insufficient. Someone with vision problems will probably have difficulties reading this content. And the visual style and the type of interactions are somewhat old-fashioned, but I understand that this is secondary, “concludes María. On the other hand, he says that the visual design “is about ten or fifteen years ago, but that limitation may come from the inherited technology, perhaps you have to use an infrastructure where it is difficult for all of that to work.”
Then there is the question of who is this website addressed to. Yes to the press, yes to the ordinary citizen … A difficult question to answer after visiting it and that both María and Beatriz find it difficult to elucidate. “I understand that this website has cost this amount, but I don’t know if what citizenship needs is a 360 degree virtual tour to the Congress building, for example. Does that create value? “Asks Maria, who also makes an analogy:” nobody wants a drill, people want a hole in the wall to hang a painting. People are not interested in having a new website, but in a useful platform. “
Other sections of the web also raise the eyebrows. Jose Luis Antunez, interaction designer, explains that by clicking on the ‘Get to know us’ section it is expected to find “the operation and functions of the Congress, its history, etc. But no. The content of that section is a map of its location”.
The British model
An example not too distant and with a long history in which Spain could look to reorient its way of managing the websites of public institutions is that of the United Kingdom. María Izquierdo knows him well: she worked for him Government Digital Service, a department in charge of the digital transformation of the government in the Anglo-Saxon country. He says that a specific department was opened there for this ten years ago, in charge of working on the digital transformation of administrations.
“It is the perfect example that with the Congress website we should not talk so much about its cost, but rather about changing the paradigm from which we think. Not thinking about web pages, but about services. Ten years ago a lot of money was spent on these issues , and that’s why that department was created, to control technology spending. “
The United Kingdom created in 2010 a model that changed the rules for public digital procurement and today it has one of the world references in digital service design
Since then, all the equivalents of our ministries have the obligation to write what problem they want to solve, what the users of that solution will be like or if the code must be open, among other requirements. That tore it Francis Maude, Chief of the Cabinet Office between 2010 and 2015, to make digital public procurement more efficient. From that came the web Gov.uk, which hosts all the British government websites and whose internal motto, according to María, was that “it was never going to be finished” in reference to the fact that it would require continuous and perpetual updates. His visual style is one of aseptic elegance that permeates all public institutions in the country.
Today, the British government website is one of the world references in digital public design along with Canada The Australia. What structures prevent Spain from reaching that level? Among others, its form of contracting: the institution that requires making one must write some specifications and the solution that it requires, whoever takes the award is limited to providing it. Companies adapt to the specifications. In the UK, as we have seen, the search for the best solution is also left to whoever is going to implement it. It is not assumed that it will come from whoever has the problem. In Spain, by legal imperativeyes.
There are no signs at the moment that this change of model will take place in Spain, which could lead as in other countries in a visual language and homogeneous structures between the websites of each institution. Congress, Senate, Tax Agency, the different ministries, Moncloa, Zarzuela, autonomous communities, councils … Today all completely heterogeneous, with their own codes and hierarchies of content. While that comes, we can only see eventual redesigns that persist in the model.
Since Engadget We tried to contact GFi Informática to obtain their statements for this article without having received a response.