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JIM VIBERT: If the Nova Scotia government can’t even build a website with services…

The Nova Scotia government's new website often just redirects you to the old one several years into the project.
The Nova Scotia government's new website often just redirects you to the old one several years into the project. - Contributed

“There are no programs and services on the new website (you’re on the new website now).”

Those discouraging words, lifted verbatim from the Nova Scotia government website, seem to beg something more, like maybe, “so go away and don’t come back.”

But the author or authors might have known that the visitors’ frustration at finding nothing – there is a good deal of nothing on the government’s new website – was likely sufficient to deter and dismiss many an unwanted program- or service-seeker, so no addendum was required.

If you haven’t visited the Nova Scotia government website for an eon or two, you’ve missed out on the now-interminable effort to “improve accessibility, reduce duplication and make it easier to search, find and connect to content …”

In case there’s any doubt, the new government website accomplishes none of those objectives. Indeed, it offers the uninitiated user the opposite experience.

The promise of a new and better site dates back to a news release issued on Oct. 2, 2018, that also assured us most content would be moved to the “improved site in phases though this year and next year.” Some has, but not nearly what was promised.

By the government’s own reckoning, the new site should have been done, or mostly done, by the end of 2019, yet here we are in 2021 and – other than COVID-related information – the site is largely an empty shell that directs users back to the old site – eventually – where most content lives on.

In the lengthening meantime, the new provincial government website takes unsuspecting users on trips where the logical path to programs and services is detoured through unhelpful pages with information like "nothing to see here," as noted above.

For example, let’s say you found your way to the Education Department’s pages on the site and discovered the link there that reads: “programs and services.”

You would, quite naturally, assume that link would take you to the Education Department’s programs and services, but such an assumption would be wrong.

The link deposits the unsuspecting site user at the aforementioned “no programs or services” page.

And it doesn’t end there. A tad lower, on that same page, visitors are teased with a ray of hope in the form with these words and yet another link: “See programs and services for all departments and offices.” The link is embedded in the words “programs and services,” so we follow it, for surely it leads to the promised land where the programs and services hide.

Except it doesn’t.

Instead it deposits the poor schmuck on a page erroneously titled “Programs and Services” but populated with a random grab bag of some 60 links to government-type stuff, some of which are programs or services and some are not.

In fact, there is no discernable rhyme nor reason to what’s on that list. It includes stuff like “Disclosure of Wrongdoing” which is not a confessional, but rather a place government workers can learn how to drop a dime on a co-worker or boss who exhibits “behaviour that goes against the law, public interest, or government values or principles.”

I could go on about the list, but you get the drift. It is a list of something, but it is most definitely not, as advertised, a list of the programs and services offered by “all departments and offices.”

The province says COVID derailed progress on the new site, when the government’s web-making wizards were redeployed to manage the online COVID-related information flow.

While undoubtedly true, that excuse doesn’t account for the fact that COVID arrived in Nova Scotia in March 2020, some three months after the province said the new site would be chock-full of content.

Those of us who use the site regularly can find stuff – the search engine works pretty well – but to the occasional or first-time site user it’s a maze and a mess.

Some 30 months after promising a new website, most government content remains where it was during the Dexter administration, on the so-called old website.

A reader who was frustrated after experiencing the links to nowhere described above, concluded a recent missive with this unfinished thought: “If they can’t even build a decent website …”

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