New GOV.UK website

On 31 January 2012 the GDS (Government Digital Service) released the first phase of the beta test of (www.)GOV.UK, on their journey towards a single domain for central government.
The aim is to deliver simpler, clearer, faster services for users and savings and innovation for Government. This website will replace
I’ve attended the Really Useful Date GOV.UK event in London, last March, and had the opportunity to hear from the developers and managers behind this project.
On his presentation, David Mann, Delivery Manager for GOV.UK beta, has given an insight into the creation of the new website, focusing on the citizen part of the site.
My notes on David’s presentation:

  • Make services quick, practical and easy to use and people will want to come back.
  • People scan webpages (reference to Jakob Nielsen).
  • The likelihood of people getting to the bottom of a page is very remote.
  • The team behind GOV.UK is relentless about UX.
  • They accomodate constant change by adopting a iterative, user-focused product development approach.
  • Focus on tasks (big centred buttons on pages).
  • Always assume Google is your home page.
  • Learn it once design (make it so easy to use that people don’t need tutorials or instructions on how to use it).

This goes a long way from the bulky government websites we’re used to, specially in when Local Authorities are concerned.
So, with such a minimalist design, where will all that content go?
Danid explains:

Optimising the common case but not ignoring the edge case.
There will always be people who don’t fit the common case. For those there is information available too.

This means making sure top tasks are easy to accomplish, but provide more in-depth information too, at a deeper level on the website, without letting it get on the way to top tasks, though.

The key element is to link properly and effectively.

GOV.UK is an Open Source product, therefore an API is provided. The API is also in beta, so its likely to change.
Later on, the attendees were given the task to design a customer journey for a given subject (eg, find a parking place). This workshop was introduced by Andy Thornyon, UX Specialist at Fortune Cookie, who provided us with the following guidelines:

  • Signposting: the content needs to be right and easily readable.Instructions must be brief and to the point, and clear.

    Use images and video to inform decision making. Do NOT use images just for decoration.Think about the goal.

  • Feedback:when designing a form, think of it as a conversation that the customer is having with the website.Positive feedback if something goes wrong.
  • Goals:think of the decisions customers need to make to achieve their goals. Jam research example. Too many choices are overwhelming for the customer.Lead the audience. Make sure what you want them to do is clear.

I was glad to see that central government is driven by UX on their digital strategy.
As Dafydd Vaughan said:

[…]if we are being truly user-centric, people should not need to understand the structure of government to be able to access services.

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