It’s not just Amazon which is feeling the need for a new look.  In quick succession come redesigns from BBC News and the FCOSimon Dickson likes the design, but is disappointed by the limited innovation.

There are some obvious little glitches in the FCO site.  There is a big Morello logo for their content management supplier – but it rather oddly links to the UK Visas site.  There is a link to a landing page for all their blogs (which has the less than user-friendly page title, “Roller Front Page Aggregator”) – but there is no way back from there to any other part of the site, including the home page.  It’s a bit mean to pick them out, but they are more easily found than one might expect.

But there are two less transient things which bother me about this.  One is a minor personal irritation: gets you nowhere; it has to be  There was once a reason for that, but that reason has long gone – nobody now needs to distinguish www from telnet or even ftp, it should be the simple default.  Any properly managed site should accept the address with or without the www, and my entirely unquantified and unscientific impression is that private sector sites have a higher propensity to do so than public sector sites.  It’s a tiny issue in the grand scheme of things, but it’s one of the little details which shows how obsessive a site’s owners are about making life easier for users.

The biggest question of all, though, is what this site is doing in the first place.  There is a lot of material clearly about providing information to citizens, including one of the four main areas, travelling and living overseas.  It’s understandable that that is where that information has been. But the intention is pretty unambiguous that

The public sector can better strategically manage customer online access to services by progressively moving e-services onto two websites where they can be presented and linked in ways which customers understand. Those two sites are Directgov for citizens and for businesses.

(Service Transformation Agreement, para 2.15)

It’s not that Directgov doesn’t have any of this stuff, some of which, after a slightly tortuous series of links, ends up back at the FCO anyway.  So on the face of it, something of a lost opportunity to use a visual redesign to think more broadly about the wider question of how to present information to citizens more broadly and more effectively.