CSS and Javascript on GOV.UK page take early Christmas holiday

El Reg asks why; they magically reappear. Fancy that!

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Updated A government legal aid eligibility checker has been without Javascript and CSS for a fortnight, sources told The Register – causing a visible dip in the number of people using the service.

Shortly after El Reg asked the Ministry of Justice about the flaw with the site in question, the JS and CSS magically reappeared.

A man from the ministry later told us: "The Javascript and CSS implemented on the service stopped working on 4th December which had an impact on the formatting and display for users accessing the service. Members of the public were still able to use the service and contact the Civil Legal Advice helpline, as well as request help completing the service through the 'get in touch' link which is available on each page."

While one-size-fits-all site GOV.UK has come in for a number of thoroughly deserved brickbats from these quarters over the years, we were able to view the precise impact that the absence of JS and CSS had on that form, thanks to a seriously obscure data-tracking page.

This revealed that up until the beginning of December, the point when we understand that the Javascript and CSS took an unexpectedly early Christmas holiday, the form's completion rate – that is, people getting to the end of the eligibility checker and finding out whether or not the taxpayer would fund their legal claims – was 70 per cent of all visitors, as measured back to July.

By today, however, that had declined to just 58 per cent of form visitors, leaving a noticeable dip.

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Legal aid eligibility is not the most pressing of matters, and an online questionnaire doesn't really have much of an impact on serious claims. It might spare a few lawyers the occasional chat with potentially annoyed folk but does little else in practice. It may or may not give oversimplified "yay or nay" answers to complex and nuanced issues.

However, the absence of CSS and Javascript on the form page is intriguing. How did it go AWOL and in which of the other sprawling corners of GOV.UK is this likely to have happened?

"The team responsible for maintaining digital services in MoJ are auditing the services they support and putting in measures to ensure this sort of problem does not arise again for this or any other service they provide," said the spokesman.


We asked the MoJ why its web pages ran into difficulties and a spokesman told us "we have nothing further to add". ®


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