How focus on UX helped win design of the year

The goal of self-service sites is to help users find answers themselves, forestalling the need to contact a real person. When such a site is done right, it leads you straight from symptoms to diagnosis to cure. However, if self-service sites are done poorly, they’re hard to navigate and offer no effective way to find the information you need or to learn about next steps. The only thing that’s left to do is to call a customer-service agent, who hopefully will have the information the user needs.

Great UX design can solve this problem. In 2013, the UK Government Digital Services (GDS) team won Design of the Year for its self-service Web site GOV.UK, beating contenders in fashion, architecture, and product development. One of the judges even remarked, “It creates a benchmark … all international government Web sites can be judged on.”

So why is this self-service government site so amazing, asks Sarah Chambers, Director of Customer Support at Kayako (London, UK) in her analysis on UXmatters. Simple: it puts the experience of the user first and makes it as easy as possible for users to find what they need quickly.

The GDS follows ten design principles on every GOV.UK project:

  1. Start with users’ needs
  2. Do less
  3. Design with data
  4. Do the hard work to make it simple
  5. Iterate. Then iterate again
  6. This is for everyone
  7. Understand context
  8. Build digital services, not Web sites
  9. Be consistent, not uniform
  10. Make things open—it makes things better

By sticking to these principles, the GDS manages to keep the user foremost throughout their design process, thus enabling GOV.UK users to self-serve.