Wednesday 20 March 2013

Design Principles of UK Government Digital Services

The UK Government have defined excellent design principles for deploying digital services, which is broadly applicable, and should be considered, by anyone developing applications for the web. They are summarised below:
  1. Start with [user] needs
  2. Build digital services, not websites
    Our service doesn’t begin and end at our website. It might start with a search engine and end at the post office. We need to design for that, even if we can’t control it. And we need to recognise that some day, before we know it, it’ll be about different digital services again.
  3. Do less
    Government should only do what only government can do. ... We should concentrate on the irreducible core.
  4. Design with data
    ... we can learn from [current] real world behaviour. ...
  5. Do the hard work to make it simple
    Making something look simple is easy; making something simple to use is much harder — especially when the underlying systems are complex — but that’s what we should be doing.
  6. Iterate. Then iterate again.
    The best way to build effective services is to start small and iterate wildly. Release Minimum Viable Products early, test them with real users, move from Alpha to Beta to Launch adding features and refinements based on feedback from real users.
  7. Build for inclusion
  8. Be consistent, not uniform
  9. Make things open: it makes things better
    We should share what we’re doing whenever we can. With colleagues, with users, with the world. Share code, share designs, share ideas, share intentions, share failures. The more eyes there are on a service the better it gets — howlers get spotted, better alternatives get pointed out, the bar gets raised.
    Partly because much of what we’re doing is only possible because of open source code and the generosity of the web design community. So we should pay that back. But mostly because more openness makes for better services — better understood and better scrutinised. If we give away our code, we’ll be repaid in better code. That’s why we’re giving away all this...

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