Making our ambitions for The National Archives’ website a reality.
13 Incomplete applications
12 SME, 1 large
16 Completed applications
14 SME, 2 large
- Wednesday 2 September 2020
- Deadline for asking questions
- Wednesday 9 September 2020 at 11:59pm GMT
- Closing date for applications
- Wednesday 16 September 2020 at 11:59pm GMT
- Summary of the work
- After a successful Alpha phase, we now need an expert partner to help us implement the vision of a new www.nationalarchives.gov.uk website, developing accessible solutions that meet our users’ needs built upon a future-proof infrastructure of current and emerging technologies.
- Latest start date
- Sunday 1 November 2020
- Expected contract length
- 5-6 months (depending on start date)
- Organisation the work is for
- The National Archives
- Budget range
- Up to £425,000
About the work
- Why the work is being done
We built and tested, in public, prototypes for a new www.nationalarchives.gov.uk website, in an Alpha phase. We are now looking for a partner to work with us, ultimately to deliver a Beta service during 2021, as we take forward our vision for The National Archives on the web.
This project will lay the foundations for eventually replacing our existing website with a new experience that will transform how our users engage with the archive. The careful consideration and adoption of the most appropriate technologies, methodologies and ways of working will be essential to realising our ambitions.
- Problem to be solved
Our current website is difficult to use. We have explored and tested alternatives. Building on discovery/alpha and https://alpha.nationalarchives.gov.uk our goals are to:
• make it easy for people to find evidence about the past when asking questions on the web;
• develop a solution for presenting archival information, so it is understandable for all regardless of a user’s familiarity with archives, alongside machine-readable data for re-use;
• develop a generous interface that allows users to explore our catalogue and details of records held by other UK archives, alongside curated content, by topic and theme.
All work will undertake a Service Standard Assessment.
- Who the users are and what they need to do
We imagine people encountering us on the web when they have questions about the past. Our recent work has focused on two key user groups – potential users and first-time users. This remains our priority, as we seek to grow and diversify our audience. We are also widening the scope to include our existing users, e.g. family historians, academic historians and other professionals engaged in personal or historical research.
Our hypothesis is that through generous interfaces users will feel empowered to explore the collection. We look forward to validating this with further research and by refining our prototypes.
- Early market engagement
We have completed an Alpha phase, which allowed us to trial technologies, such as ElasticSearch, which proved far more flexible and capable than we previously imagined. We engaged with users iteratively throughout the design process (prototypes available to view at https://alpha.nationalarchives.gov.uk). We published a series of articles covering process and analysis on our Medium blog https://medium.com/the-national-archives-digital.
We now imagine creating a knowledge graph of our collection, to express relationships between entities and to expose those relationships as structured data on the web (including through Schema.org and its archival extension). In previous projects we have used RDF (HTML5+RDFa and JSON-LD) for our metadata.
All resources (for both the API and front end) should adhere to the URL scheme we have devised for accessing our collections.
We continue to evaluate the IIIF standard and tools, which has potential for presenting our digitised content. This will be explored further in this work.
We are looking for a partner with experience of developing and maintaining knowledge graphs, implementing solutions using ElasticSearch as well as experience of a variety of modern development frameworks. The in-house team has skills and experience in AWS technologies/hosting but we remain open to other cloud platforms.
- Any work that’s already been done
The main outcomes of the Alpha phase were:
• 10 prototypes, illustrating potential solutions to complex user needs - https://alpha.nationalarchives.gov.uk
• A proposed URI scheme to replace our existing model
• Conducted user research to gain a better understanding of non-users and first-time users
• Agreed technical recommendations* to be implemented in Beta
• Agreed the need for an organisation-wide content strategy.
* More information about the technical recommendations for Beta is available at https://docs.google.com/document/d/15MSSFW5gg45lFNmYvzxpMQa68CKg4D7Ai9Xp3dO_GdU/edit#heading=h.oadj953cetdn
- Existing team
UX workstream - led by our UX team. Front-end/back-end/infrastructure workstreams - led by in-house experts, supported by x4 Designer/Developers specialising in UI design/front-end development. Metrics/Analytics - led by our x2 specialists. Content design - led by our x2 designers. We have some data analyst capability.
The supplier will jointly lead back-end development, complementing our existing skillset on the technical side of the project.
We also have access to in-house subject matter experts, who have in-depth knowledge of our collection and the catalogue.
We anticipate need for expertise in content writing, information architecture, data architecture, business analysis, API development, a ScrumMaster.
- Current phase
- Address where the work will take place
- The Digital Services team is based at The National Archives, Bessant Drive, Richmond, Surrey TW9 4DU.
- Working arrangements
- Given the situation with COVID-19, remote working will be the main arrangement for this project. Some work may be conducted at The National Archives, Bessant Drive, Richmond, Surrey TW9 4DU, but only when it is appropriate and safe to do so.
- Security clearance
- Baseline check (blue) security clearance will be required for access to The National Archives.
- Additional terms and conditions
Skills and experience
Buyers will use the essential and nice-to-have skills and experience to help them evaluate suppliers’ technical competence.
- Essential skills and experience
- Have expertise in delivering production code in line with the GDS Service Standard and Technology Code of Practice
- Have expertise in assessing current and emerging technologies for ongoing maintenance, scalability and optimisation.
- Have expertise in writing APIs and Web Services
- Have expertise in the design and development of large-scale resource-based architectures
- Have expertise in evaluating and benchmarking cloud based technologies
- Have expertise in developing pliable front-ends that allow for continuous evolution through A/B testing etc.
- Have expertise in usage and user information (analytics) for personalisation and metrics
- Have expertise in delivering digital transformation projects
- Nice-to-have skills and experience
- Have an understanding of archives and archival practice
- Have expertise in smart approaches to manage static content at scale in the cloud
- Have expertise in graph data
- Have expertise in Elasticsearch and its application to a graph-oriented approach
- Have experience implementing and working with cloud-based and/or headless CMS
- Have experience of developing and using progressive web applications (PWAs)
- Have experience of using Jira to manage agile projects
How suppliers will be evaluated
All suppliers will be asked to provide a written proposal.
- How many suppliers to evaluate
- Proposal criteria
- Examples of undertaking a technical and build approach that is in line with the Government Service Standard and Technology Code of Practice
- Examples of assessing current and emerging technologies for ongoing maintenance, scalability and optimisation
- Examples of successfully delivered enterprise level production code using MVC frameworks
- Examples of APIs and Web Services used at scale in production
- Examples of the design and development of large scale resource-based architectures
- Examples of evaluating and benchmarking cloud based technologies
- Examples of developing pliable front ends that allow for continuous evolution through A/B testing etc.
- Examples of analysing usage and user information (analytics) for personalisation and metrics
- Examples of utilising CMS for managing and delivering engaging content
- Examples of successfully delivered digital transformation projects
- Cultural fit criteria
- Collaborative and flexible working approach, e.g. working with in-house technical and other digital specialists
- Approach to supporting teams to adopt new technologies
- Experience of challenging the way things are done and exploring new ideas and approaches
- Project management and experience of successfully using agile project methodologies
- Examples of delivering transition, knowledge transfer and handover of code.
- An appreciation for the importance of technical documentation as a means of ensuring ongoing maintainability of systems.
- Demonstrable commitment to a diverse working environment, with a team comprised of experts from a wide variety of backgrounds
- Payment approach
- Capped time and materials
- Additional assessment methods
- Evaluation weighting
Questions asked by suppliers
- 1. Does the supplier who delivered the Alpha, also offer Beta services? And, will they be considered for this tender if they apply?
The Alpha was delivered by The National Archives Digital Services team with support from a supplier. The detail of what support was provided can be seen in the original marketplace opportunity for the Alpha work https://www.digitalmarketplace.service.gov.uk/digital-outcomes-and-specialists/opportunities/10287
All applications will be considered against the published evaluation criteria and weightings
- 2. Who’s in the incumbent and how long they have been the incumbent?
- There is no incumbent supplier. Alpha was delivered by The National Archives Digital Services team with support from a supplier. The detail of what support was provided can be seen in the original opportunity for the Alpha work https://www.digitalmarketplace.service.gov.uk/digital-outcomes-and-specialists/opportunities/10287
- 3. In respect of "An appreciation for the importance of technical documentation as a means of ensuring ongoing maintainability of systems." – are you open to documentation formats such as BDD in addition to established mechanism such as architecture diagrams and descriptions?
- All services and components delivered should be documented so that it is clear to others: what the component does; the selected technical approach and associated reasoning/considerations, and; how to get up and running with the code in a local development environment quickly. Documentation will be considered part of the acceptance criteria. We are open to BDD as part of a considered and consistent approach to documentation that achieves these things.
- 4. Do you have a particular tech stack in mind for the build?
The following links provide more detail on the technology stacks we are considering and also provides additional insight into our desire to move toward a serverless approach.
Technical specification - https://github.com/nationalarchives/ds-beta/wiki/Tech-Spec
Front-end technologies - https://github.com/nationalarchives/front-end-development-guide/blob/master/development-guide.md#frontend-libraries-and-frameworks-we-use
Technical recommendations - https://docs.google.com/document/d/15MSSFW5gg45lFNmYvzxpMQa68CKg4D7Ai9Xp3dO_GdU/edit#heading=h.oadj953cetdn
More generally we are committed to accessibility and other considerations related to inclusion for front end technologies, as captured in Archives for Everyone - https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/about/our-role/plans-policies-performance-and-projects/our-plans/archives-for-everyone/ (edited)
- 5. Who's on the panel?
The panel is likely to include:
Head of Digital Services
Lead Front-end Developer
Senior Web Developer
However this may be subject to change depending on availability.
- 6. Information for all potential suppliers
- Please note we intend to hold interviews for the shortlisted suppliers on 28 September. These will be done virtually using Zoom or Microsoft Teams.
- 7. Regarding frontend/application technology selection, how fixed are you on React as a key element, and are you open to other leading open course frameworks like Vue.js for example?
We are a forward thinking team and open to adopting alternative technologies where it is genuinely beneficial for the organisation and our users. If you wish to propose using alternative methodologies/technologies which you feel add value to TNA, it is for you to make that case in your written proposal.
- 8. Can you please explain how you will score each individual question in this initial shortlisting stage?
- The 'Essential skills and experience' and 'Nice to have skills and experience' will all be marked according to the Framework methodology as laid out here https://www.gov.uk/guidance/how-to-shortlist-digital-outcomes-and-specialists-suppliers .
- 9. Which design program are your current prototypes built in?
- The prototypes at alpha.nationalarchives.gov.uk were built using a range of tools. Some are data-driven web applications, others have been built using various wireframing/prototyping tools such as UXPin.
- 10. What do you mean by evaluating and benchmarking cloud based technologies? What cloud based technologies exactly?
- Cloud platforms offer many different tools that can be employed to solve a particular technical challenge. Some will be better suited to the organisation need in terms of cost, scalability, performance, stability or other factors. These will need to be evaluated and benchmarked, and the supplier should be expert in this. As we have explained in the marketplace opportunity the in-house team has skills and experience in AWS technologies/hosting but we remain open to other cloud platforms in our infrastructure if a change can be justified.
- 11. What do you mean by large-scale resource-based architecture?
- We currently have many different resources, such as data sources and software components, which can be reused for different purposes i.e. presentation for human and computer consumers.