Digital lifecycle – Decommission

BETA. This draft guidance is provided as a ready-reference for business owners and project teams in government agencies planning online delivery. It draws on the approach of the UK government's Digital by Default Service Standard, released under the Open Government Licence v2.0. We invite feedback from agencies.
  • Build services around the needs of users.
  • Think about the lifecycle of digital delivery.

If you're rationalising or retiring web content or services, you need to plan how to help users through the change, and assist them when they arrive on expired links or content. And you need to meet your obligations under the Public Records Act; in essence this means preserving a record of the government's activity and interactions online.

Questions you should answer before retiring web content

Usability

  • How will users deal with broken links from other sites or their bookmarks?
    When users arrive at a URL that is no longer valid, you need to help them to find what they were looking for. You might need to consider:

    • a redirect for widely-used pages to automatically help users along to to the right place,
    • a search and/or site-map on your 404 page to help users find what they're looking for,
    • a summary of what's changed, and how and why it was changed.
  • What arrangements - if any - do you need to make with your call center or publicly-available phone contacts to handle enquiries about the retired content?
  • Do you need to alert your colleagues in other parts of government - or outside government - that might be linking to your content?
  • Is there value in leaving content online even after it is no longer being maintained?
    • Have you considered leaving the content online but clearly marked as Archived and no longer maintained?

Archiving

  • Have you sought advice from your records team on your plan to archive content?
  • Have you consulted the National Library web harvest team to see what assistance they can provide to capture content that you plan to archive?
    • Some types of online content can't be preserved by a web archive. Have they been identified, and what's the plan to handle these components?
  • If the site or service contains versioning data, is it included in your archive strategy?
    • Will you be able to use it to recall a snapshot of content at any time in the past?
  • Does your archive strategy include transaction logs that could be used as evidence of transactions on the site?
    • If needed, will you be able to recreate a record of users' transactions on the site?
  • Will the archive contain any personal information, including email addresses?
    • What level of protection/security does storage require?
    • How long will it need to be stored for?
  • Have you documented how to reconstruct the content or data that's being removed, if required?

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