GDS tells public sector to 'be bold and unpublish' unnecessary web pages

Written by Sam Trendall on 19 July 2017 in News
News

Government Digital Service lifts lid on success of project to simplify process of starting a business online

GDS has reduced the number of pages on its website offering guidance for new business by more than two thirds

The Government Digital Service has counselled public sector bodies – and businesses – to “be bold and unpublish” to ensure they have websites and digital services that are fit for purpose.

The advice comes in the light of a recent project conducted by GDS to simplify the process of setting up a business online. The government’s technology unit has reduced the number of pages on its website offering guidance for new businesses from more than 50 down to just 16, according to a blog by GDS content designer Jeni Street.

This pruning, she said, has resulted in a 25% rise in the number of clicks through to the online services needed to start a company. A 5% drop in the number of pages visited before accessing those services has also been observed, wrote Street.


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She said that public bodies should work together with GDS in creating their digital services, and that it is crucial to focus on users’ most important needs, and ensure the utmost simplicity.

“People don’t care about internal processes – they just want to ‘do the thing’; for example, set up their limited company, or register for self-assessment,” Street said.

Painful as it may be, she urged digital and IT professionals across the civil service to be bold and decisive when it comes to stripping back their websites and online services.

“It can be nerve-wracking removing content that’s been there from the very early days of a website,” she said. “It might be well-established in search engine results, have lots of referrals from other sites, have thousands of unique page views a day.”

Street added: “However, if the findings from user research and analytics suggest that it’s not working, then you have two options: do nothing, learn nothing; [or] be bold, do something, and learn from it.”

The GDS content designer concluded by saying that designing and repurposing digital services should be an ongoing process.

“One of the most positive experiences on this project was the way in which we were able to draw on evidence from both data and user research to make the case for change,” she said. “And this doesn’t stop when we hit the ‘publish’ button – or the ‘unpublish’ button.

“We’ll keep evaluating how well GOV.UK is meeting the needs of people starting a business in the UK, and collaborating with our colleagues across government to make it better.”

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