Last Friday Rebecca Kemp, Joshua Marshall and I visited the opening of the ‘Design that Makes a Difference’ exhibition at the Royal College of Art. Josh is our accessibility lead and Rebecca leads the Assisted Digital programme. Organised as a collaboration between the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design and the Norwegian government, the exhibition is about “inclusive design” and “showcases 20 leading projects from the UK and Norway that demonstrate the benefits of people-centred design thinking”.
At the event I gave a short talk about GOV.UK and our approach to inclusive design which can be summed up in our sixth design principle: “Accessible design is good design. We should build a product that’s as inclusive, legible and readable as possible.”
There’s a lot of slightly confusing jargon in this area – phrases like inclusive design, accessibility and assisted digital. They are not the same thing but there is a significant amount of overlap because they are all about making sure that products and services meet the needs of different types of users.
‘Assisted digital’ is about how we will make sure that people who are offline can access digital by default services. As we say in the Government Digital Strategy, “Everyone who can use digital services independently will be encouraged to do so (Action 8 of the Government Digital Strategy), and the 18% of people who are offline will use assisted digital support (Action 9 of the Government Digital Strategy).”
There is a big mainstream need for more straightforward and convenient digital services. More people are shopping, banking and paying bills online than using government services. But that’s not where our ambition ends. Making services digital by default should make them better for everybody and the projects in ‘Design that Makes a Difference’ showed us that that is possible.
If we’re aiming to provide services digitally to as many people as we can, then we owe it to everyone to have our products be as accessible as we can make them. That’s the aim of the accessibility work we’ve done so far on GOV.UK, to ensure that no user is excluded from accessing any of the information or tools that we publish.
It was hugely gratifying to be included in an exhibition that focused on products that are designed around ease of use and usability. We’ve worked hard on the accessibility of GOV.UK and continue to make the products we build as inclusive to as many people as we can. We welcome your feedback if you think there’s an area of the site that can be improved upon.