Last week saw the launch of GOV.UK - a website replacing Direct Gov and Business Link where people can access government services and information.
The aim of GOV.UK is to provide a one stop shop for government services with the emphasis on great user experience. If the site succeeds in doing this, it will be in stark contrast to a number of government and local council websites. These spaces are normally frustrating to use and have dull, dated designs.
The development of GOV.UK was led by the Exective Director of Government Digital Services, Mike Bracken. Bracken has stressed that the aim of this project was to champion users needs and offer a 'simpler, clearer, faster' service.
To succeed the team spent a lot of time and effort on research, testing and preparation. The whole design process was led by 10 design guide principles. Testing was an important component including online testing with 20,000 users and 11 rounds of face to face interviews. Statistics from the user testing validate the work by evidencing the average time to complete a task on Gov.uk is one minute quicker than Business Link.
My expectations were not particularly high (based on previous experience with government sites) but I'm very impressed with the resulting website . I'm not immediately confused when I arrive on the site, which is a good start. The use of white as the primary colour on the site works well, helping to present information in an easy to digest clean and simple way.
Navigation is simple with the user selecting an area of interest (e.g. Driving, Transport, travel etc) and a breadcrumb appears as they navigate deeper into the site, meaning the user always knows where they are.
To try out the site, I set myself the task of paying my council tax. The process was incredibly easy and it felt like I was being directed step by step through the process by the site itself. As I progressed through the site, the page designs and the style of copy used remained consistent, adhering to one of the ten design principles:
“Be consistent, not uniform. Wherever possible use the same language and the same design patterns - this helps people get familiar with the services”
The 'Pay Your Council Tax' page is again clean with no unecessary copy distracting from the main input form.
Within each section, users are presented with relevant links, discreetly displayed and handily anchored to the right hand side of the page. This allows another way for users to navigate around the site should they not immediately find the section they're looking for.
Historically, the problem with government or local council websites is that they tend to be a dumping ground for large amounts of data and information, without any thought on how to best present that to a user. This site is the exact opposite - the lack of clutter and images as well as a clean, simple approach to presenting information actually enhances rather than takes away from the look and feel.
Overall I'm impressed with GOV.UK - it's easy to use, does the job and the stripped back approach to displaying information works really well. More importantly, the site is going to cost the taxpayer £70m less a year than the websites it replaces.
What do you think of the site? Let us know in the comments section below.