Taking inspiration from Gov.uk

Duncan Stephen
Friday 9 August 2013

I know there are more websites out there than Gov.uk, but I somehow feel the need to keep returning to it. It makes the news quite often for positive reasons, which is incredible for a government digital project.

Fail fast, move on – making government digital

Here, the BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones profiles the Government Digital Service:

The boss of the Government Digital Service was previously the digital director at the Guardian and has had a long career in the technology sector. He contrasts the approach his team is taking with the standard government IT procurement process, where a massive contract is handed to an outside supplier, inevitably a huge company.

“You then end up three years later with something that might be fit for what you were doing five years ago.” Compare this with the GDS approach: “Do it quick, fail fast, learn your lessons and continue to change – that’s why you need the skills inside the organisation.” And with a philosophy of open standards, there is much more flexibility to work with other, smaller suppliers as the project moves on.

FAQs: why we don’t have them

Although FAQs sometimes have their place, I often advise against them because they are usually not user-centred in design. The GDS agrees:

FAQs are convenient for writers – they put everything in a long list; it’s all neatly organised and the ‘Q’ does a lot of work for you. But they’re more work for readers – questions take longer to scan and understand than simple headings and you can’t take any meaning from them in a quick glance.

Also see the comments for an interesting discussion on FAQs.

A Gov supreme

Jeremy Keith uses Gov.uk as an example of a well-implemented responsive design, which adapts according to the device. This article also talks about how the advent of responsive design necessitates improvements in the way we work.

I’ve been doing some workshopping and consultancy at a few different companies recently, mostly about responsive design. I can’t help but feel a little bad about it because, while I think they’re expecting to get a day of CSS, HTML, and JavaScript, what they actually get is the uncomfortable truth that responsive design changes everything …changes that start long before the front-end development phase.

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