Earlier this week the the final ministerial department joined GOV.UK. This isn’t the end of the GOV.UK story; in fact it’s barely the end of the beginning. But today is still a big moment, the result of commitment and collaboration from hundreds of civil servants all across government.
So to mark the occasion I thought I’d gather up and share some historical artifacts; some sketches, diagrams, lists, photos,and screengrabs that chart the evolution of GOV.UK from a crisp recommendation for a ‘single domain for government’ in Martha Lane Fox’s November 2010 report, through to today’s award-winning reality.
One of Martha Lane Fox’s four recommendations was to ‘Reinvent Government Online Publishing’. You can read her full report
, happily ensconsed in its new home on GOV.UK
Just before Christmas 2010 a bunch of digital folk from across Whitehall gathered after work in a pub in Lambeth North to work out how you might implement Martha’s vision in practice. Over the New Year, Will Callaghan and Neil Williams came up with a series of wireframes showing how you could simplify departmental websites into a coherent, simple, single proposition.
An outline brief
written in February 2011 by the team asked to produce an ‘alpha’ (experimental prototype) of the proposed single domain.
Set of design rules created by the team responsible for producing the alpha
of GOV.UK. Many moons later, variants of some of these rules turned up in the GDS Design Principles
This isn’t a technical architecture, it’s a mental map of the various bits making up the alpha of GOV.UK. Read this blog post for more detail
about how the alpha of GOV.UK was developed.
Again, it’s instructive to see what’s changed and what’s remained the same by looking at the current version
. As the alpha was being developed, we became aware of the scale of the content design challenge.
The public alpha of GOV.UK gathered feedback
from May to July of 2011, and was turned off when the beta went live in January 2012. It was archived
by the wonderful people at the National Archives.
This screengrab is from the alpha of GOV.UK – it’s still available
(albeit a bit broken) courtesy to National Archives.
This is a slightly surreal mental map of the different bits we thought might make up beta of GOV.UK. We were toying with sections targeted at professions, and learning that business needs and citizen needs were closely aligned, the vast majority
of businesses being sole traders.
As you can probably tell, around this time we were searching hard for the right ‘map’ to describe the whole of GOV.UK. No one liked the bus. There was also a rocket. Luckily no-one took a photo of that.
This is a photo of a more technical mind map, showing the chunks of stuff we thought we’d need to develop for the beta of GOV.UK.
This was Neil Williams’ mental model for what became the Inside Government part of GOV.UK
When Neil Williams joined the beta team part time in Sept 2011, he came equipped with a series of well thought-through wireframes of how departments should be represented on GOV.UK. This wireframe probably maps onto this page
on the current GOV.UK site
Once Francis Maude had given the go-ahead for the beta, we began to work out a swift but sane rollout plan. Etienne Pollard was brave enough to come up with this first draft in the Autumn of 2011.
This is what GOV.UK looked like just before Christmas 2011 when we were awaiting the arrival
of Ben Terrett, our Head of Design.
This shows a format we designed with colleagues from DWP specifically to make it easier for people to understand their eligibility for benefits. In testing it didn’t perform as well as the same content placed in a ‘guide’ format, which is why it now looks like this
A map of how the various layers of user need we thought might need to be covered by GOV.UK. At this point we are realising just how much overlap there is between the needs of citizens and the needs of businesses. We’re also understanding with the sheer volume of specialist publishing undertaken by departments, targeted at professionals.
In the spring and summer of 2012, the new design team started work on earnest, in this case drawing inspiration from British Rail’s iconic designs
The homepage of the public beta of GOV.UK on Jan 31st 2012.
Russell Davies led a quick session in Feb 2012 working out how we’d talk about GOV.UK to users.
In the Spring of 2012 Russell Davies
started to ask a thousand obvious questions, and had soon simplified things enormously. Hence this picture, which we use to explain GOV.UK to people inside and outside of Government.
Sarah Prag, the product manager for the mainstream launch of GOV.UK, leads the sorting of nearly 1000 user needs into appropriate categories. Safe to assume it was neither quick nor easy.
Over the summer of 2012, we constantly iterated the design of GOV.UK, most obviously by introducing a new homepage. In July we introduced the New Transport
Paul Downey (tech architect) drew these four pictures to explain to everyone the four phases making up the 17 Oct 2012 launch of GOV.UK. By the time it got to 17 Oct, there was very little to do but flick a switch, and very little to test that hadn’t already been tested.
The whole team signed these roadsigns en route to the 17 Oct 2012 launch of GOV.UK. There was also cake.
Says it all, really.
PS If anyone’s got any interesting stuff we’ve missed lying about on their hard drive, please send it my way and I’ll add it to the gallery.