GDS updates Notify API

The Government Digital Service has upgraded the public Application Programming Interface for GOV.UK Notify based on the results of user research carried out during its private beta.

Notify allows government departments to send citizens alerts straight to their phones – Photo credit: GDS

The notification service, which allows government to send text messages, emails and letters to citizens using a set of templates, sent its first messages to real users in May last year. GDS funds an allowance of email, text messages and letters for each service, which the team has previously said should cover most services’ needs.

The public API for GOV.UK Notify allows government services to use the system and get information on the progress of those notifications.

GDS has now upgraded this API, ahead of its move to public beta, with Notify technical lead Rebecca Laws saying the changes have been made to improve functionality following user research with service teams during the private beta.

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The changes include more concise responses that are focused on the information service teams need, more filters to choose from when using the ‘get all notifications’ function on the API, and the ability to filter notifications by status and type.

In addition, the Notify team has updated error response formats so they are more informative and easier to understand, and now include the error name, status code and error message to help link error messages to relevant documentation.

There is also a new, optional input parameter for sending an email or text, ‘reference’, which allows teams to use their own unique identifiers for a notification or batch of notifications

Laws said that the team has also improved pagination by adding an ‘older than’ ID filter to get the next page of notifications to make sure pagination URLs are more consistent.

“Making changes to our API is not something we take lightly,” Laws wrote in a blogpost setting out the changes.

She said that all the client libraries had been updated to use version 2 of the API and were now available. Although older versions are still available, the latest client libraries will not be backwards-compatible due to the updates to the API responses.

“Upgrading to the latest version of the client libraries will take a small amount of work to make sure they integrate correctly with your service,” Laws said, adding that there was a CHANGEME file in the client library setting out the changes.

Laws said that new users should start with the latest client libraries, but that the old version would be maintained while existing client libraries are migrated.

The Notify team will also monitor the use of the old API, as well as helping service teams with their migration, to “ensure a smooth transition”.

At its launch in July 2016, GDS said that more than 70 service teams across central government were interested in using Notify, with the private beta involving HM Passport Office sending messages for passport applications and Lasting Power of Attorney deputy reports for the Office of the Public Guardian.


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