Why GOV.UK matters: A platform for a digital Government

On Wednesday October 17th 2012, our new digital service www.gov.uk moved out of public beta development to replace the two main government websites, Directgov and Business Link. It is the first major, full platform release from the Government Digital Service. This release heralds a new approach to digital delivery of public services in the UK. It is the start of a new approach to all things digital in central government. 

User Needs: Simpler, Clearer, Faster

GOV.UK puts user needs above all. In September last year, while announcing the Needotron, our tool for identifying and filtering the real needs of users, my colleague Richard Pope wrote  “Every superfluous page we create is one more dead end for an angry, frustrated, confused user”. This relentless focus on user needs has seen us reduce and focus our content on what is really needed. The excess is placed on record with the National Archive.

GOV.UK has led us to repurpose much of the government’s digital estate. We’ve created 28,500 mappings between Directgov/Business Link and GOV.UK. This means that when users go to an existing page, they will get a seamless user journey to updated content or an archive of the page.  Early results show GOV.UK is simpler for users, with the average task success at 61% compared with 46% on Business Link. It’s faster – the average time to complete a task is a minute quicker on GOV.UK than Business Link. And it’s clearer – we’ve eliminated jargon where ever we can.

Government Needs: The power of platforms

In his seminal work ‘Government as a Platform’ Tim O’Reilly wrote: “If you look at the history of the computer industry, the innovations that define each era are frameworks that enabled a whole ecosystem of participation from companies large and small… This is the right way to frame the question of Government 2.0. How does government become an open platform that allows people inside and outside government to innovate?”

GOV.UK has been designed with transparency, participation and simplicity at its core. It will always be based on open standards, and is unapologetically open source. This architecture ensures its integration into the growing ecosystem of the Internet. Inevitably, innovation will follow, driven from within and without. GOV.UK is not Government on the Internet, but of the Internet.

The start of a new era of digital services

From here on, the future is driven by user needs. We will migrate major departments onto the platform in the following months, with hundreds of agencies to follow over the next 18 months. More platform services will follow: Metrics, Identity and more APIs are already in development. And our upcoming Government Digital Strategy will address the urgent need to redesign our mainstream transactions.

So that’s why GOV.UK is important. It’s simpler, clearer and faster for users and has changed how government works internally. We owe huge thanks to the Minister for Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, and to Martha Lane Fox, our digital champion, who between them have enabled GDS to exist.

At the heart of GOV.UK is a willingness to listen, to react and improve our services, and a desire to collaborate with our users who, after all, fund our services. In short, we will react like public servants, by placing user need at the heart of conversation. That’s why GOV.UK matters.

38 comments

    1. Congratulations! Thank for your leadership. Protecting the most sensitive data in the cloud is the rule rather than the exception today. Well done. @timchristin

  1. I’m interested in how this might affect the way that local services are accessed online.

    If a local authority is considering how it provides online access to services, will you be encouraging them to embrace the new direction? Or are you concerned about the proliferation of many ‘miniGOVS’?

    It seems a consistent design language (like the one that has evolved in ecommerce) would be a good thing?

  2. Many congratulations on the move, Mike, very impressive – world-leading, in fact.

    I believe this sort of leadership is crucial to the future technology market in Britain. I assume a great deal of the work has been done in association with service providers and systems integrators (SIs). Can you comment at all on how this focus on open source and open standards is changing your relationships with SIs? Are the SIs involved consequently changing their business practices elsewhere?

  3. Having worked on the local service delivery Business Link sites a few years back it seems a shame to lose the BL branding. However, the simple layout and responsive design of the new Gov.uk site looks great. Look forward to seeing the site go from strength to strength.

  4. Congratulations on achieving this herculean feat. Are you able to share what the budget has been for this project from start to launch? I ask because many will, rightly, hold this up as an example of how to approach a user-based, ground-up rebuild of a public service site and I think it would be interested to get an idea of the investment required.

  5. I’ll immediately seize your rss as I can’t in finding your e-mail subscription link or newsletter service.
    Do you’ve any? Please let me recognise so that I could subscribe. Thanks.

  6. “Every superfluous page we create is one more dead end for an angry, frustrated, confused user”.

    Not if you get your navigation right, it’s not, because they’ll never even get to the pages that don’t meet their needs. That’s like saying that every additional book listed on Amazon makes it harder to buy what you want. But Amazon don’t have a problem listing “Hanging in Judgement: Religion and the Death Penalty in England from the Bloody Code to Abolition” by Harry Potter to their database, safe in the knowledge that it won’t get in the way of anyone trying to find the child wizard.

    If a page on Business Link or DirectGov was useful to someone – even if not to everyone – then why would you deliberately have chosen not to include it? If you don’t have the expertise to get your navigation sorted, then that’s the problem, not the number of pages.

      1. Oh, I don’t know. Just off the top of my head, how about 15 pages of detailed info on setting up a social enterprise, with content about financing, benefits, case studies, etc? http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:7Sqk54FRB_EJ:www.businesslink.gov.uk/bdotg/action/detail%3FitemId%3D1087387330%26type%3DRESOURCES+&cd=6&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=uk (I had to use a google cache search – it’s not even on the web archive as far as I can tell) Or are you planning to argue that a single page – https://www.gov.uk/set-up-a-social-enterprise – is an adequate replacement?

        1. John – the example you’ve mentioned is where we have concentrated on the core statutory information that government has to provide, and in doing so have not covered some of the more subjective advice style content (e.g. benefits, case studies). This is the approach Etienne Pollard explained in this post: http://digital.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/2012/10/16/meeting-the-needs-of-businesses/

          We’d be happy to provide links out to 3rd party not-for-profit sites that cover some of this ground, so we would welcome your suggestions.

          The old content is available in the National Archive, here –
          http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20120823131012/http://www.businesslink.gov.uk/bdotg/action/layer?r.l1=1073858805&r.l2=1085161962&r.s=tl&topicId=1077475650

  7. I’m extremely pleased to find this web site. I wanted to thank you for your time for this particularly fantastic read!! I definitely enjoyed every little bit of it and I have you saved as a favorite to see new information in your site.

  8. Howdy just wanted to give you a quick heads up. The words in
    your article seem to be running off the screen in Firefox.
    I’m not sure if this is a format issue or something to do with browser compatibility but I figured I’d post to let you
    know. The design look great though! Hope you get the problem
    resolved soon. Cheers

  9. Hey just wanted to give you a quick heads up.
    The text in your post seem to be running off the screen in Ie.

    I’m not sure if this is a formatting issue or something to do with internet browser compatibility but I figured I’d post to let you know.

    The style and design look great though! Hope you get the problem fixed soon.
    Many thanks

    1. Hell there. Thank you for letting us know. What browser were you using when you noticed this text issue?

  10. Of course GOV digital solutions always matters, because internet is today new way of communications and also goverment should make people acess to some informations easier. Wish you all the best :)

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