Government is not usually at the leading edge of, well anything, but not least technology.
As the noughties rolled on, the UK Government had a wealth of information online, but it was so fragmented that you couldn’t be sure if you were reading the most up-to-date information or whether you were getting the information from the right source.
This is very typical of most governments in the modern age. If anything, we were probably ahead of most just by having that information online somewhere as opposed to other countries which may have been slower to put this information online.
In 2011, the Government Digital Service was created with a mandate to completely revolutionise the Government’s digital offerings and to adopt a “digital by default” approach where every service and piece of information is planned from the outset to be available or delivered digitally.
The centerpiece of GDS’ work is gov.uk: a single website designed to house all of the content and services offered by central government.
Housing so much content, offering so many services and covering the needs of such a broad range of departments is an incredibly challenging task which is why I am so in awe of how well they have done it.
As the central government of an entire nation, they are very directly and intentionally working to reach every single citizen with their digital content. As such, the website needs to be immensely clear and concise and accessible to all (including the visually-impaired and blind).
The design is perfect. Good navigation, simple color schemes with lots of contrast, legible fonts and above all, uniformity across the entire site.
Search and breadcrumbs are always close by and a lot of thought has gone in to copywriting; the content is always concise and easy to comprehend. There’s no ambiguity or fluff which helps you get the information you need quickly.
The site is very well organised and the pages anticipate your next steps very well: for example, the home page starts with a big search box and a listing of all the government departments that you might be looking for. The footer and masthead give consistent navigation to important areas of the site.
If you just spend five minutes browsing the site especially if you’re a web developer you can’t help but appreciate how well the site works and how the Government’s “digital first” approach is having a profound effect in their ability to effectively govern online and continue to be relevant in the 21st century.
My only gripe is that they chose to go with Drupal when I’d have preferred that they go with WordPress but technicalities aside, the Government really has to be praised for how well they’ve done with setting the standard for how central government websites and digital services can and should be accessible and simple to use for all.