Government Digital Service outlines next phase of GOV.UK development

The Government Digital Service has set out plans to “reboot” its flagship GOV.UK programme, which has seen the majority of government websites brought under a single domain.

GOV.UK was the first project carried out by GDS when the central team was set up in 2012, and it followed a report by tech entrepreneur Baroness Lane Fox which called on government to make the state’s digital services more user-friendly and built according to common standards.

The single GOV.UK domain replaced the existing Directgov and Business Link websites previously offered by departments.

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GDS’s GOV.UK product lead Neil Williams said this week that he believed the platform had become “an essential part of UK national infrastructure”.

But he said it was still “far from the best place it can be”.

“There’s much more to do to bring government’s web estate together, merge content and transactions to form coherent services, and curate them to meet users’ real needs,” he wrote on the Inside GOV.UK blog.

“GOV.UK must be a constant revolution. We need an equally clear direction for everyone whose work contributes to its ongoing development.”

William has now set out a refreshed “vision” for GOV.UK after seeking the views of more than 150 people both inside and outside of government, and has vowed to “make government work for users”.

The key themes from the GOV.UK chief, outlined in the presentation shared below, are to provide “coherent services that are easy to discover and use”; to make government “participative, open and accountable”; to help government communicate “with authority and trust”; to make “great digital and user-centred publishing easy”; and to make content produced by the government “easy to re-use and build on”.

Elaborating on those points, Williams said GDS would strive to make information presented to the public through GOV.UK “clear, concise and simple at every level of detail” and “remove the need to know how the state works” in order for citizens to find the information they are seeking.

He also says GOV.UK will try to make the use of unwieldy PDF documents “the exception”, by providing better HTML formats, and says the code underpinning the site should be “fully open-source” to allow others to run and contribute to it.

“This vision will guide our plans as GOV.UK develops,” he said. “Big changes will be taken forward as projects, and we’ll iterate towards these statements in small ways all the time.”

The high-level plans for the future of GOV.UK come after GDS boss Stephen Foreshew-Cain sought to emphasise a more collaborative relationship between the central government team and individual departments at the recent Sprint 16 conference.

Colin Marrs

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