Although it’s been live for over 6 months it has recently won Design Museum’s Design of the Year (Digital) so we thought we’d take a closer look at the GOV.UK site.
Simpler, clearer, faster
Designed & built by the Government Digital Service the new GOV.UK site is a stunning example of functional design & in our minds, at least, the very worthy winner of a Design of the Year award.
OK, so it may not be pretty but it is beautiful. We’re all so used to seeing visually rich websites, it can be hard to appreciate a site that looks a bit stark at first. The statement ‘simpler, clearer, faster’ is proudly featured on the home page’s welcome section, we’re pretty sure it must have been the headline of the project brief, with the team being rightly proud of the outcome they emblazoned it prominently on the site.
With such a vast amount of information to organise it is vital to keep things simple so that visitors can get in, find it & get out. We found it interesting that unlike other large organisations’ sites there isn’t a set of accessibility options, it’s just been made easy to read as standard. Huge titles & unusually large body copy, acres of clear space, obvious links & excellent chunking of information make the site a breeze to navigate through. One only needs to visit other government sites such as hmrc to become aware of just how much a better user experience this site is.
Just a skim read of the Government Digital Service’s Design Principles demonstrates their commitment to creating a completely better portal that is lead by users’ needs. Comments such as ‘Remember we are designing information, not pushing pixels around a screen’ & ‘Be consistent, not uniform’ are great examples of a strong, guided policy being used to enforce the required outcome.
It’s almost trivial to mention how well the site layout devolves from 3 to 1 column for mobiles as it’s apparent that the team started out with the ethos that they’re not designing for this screen or that device but just presenting information as clearly as possible no matter where it lands.
Aside from the clarity & simplicity, we were impressed with just how quickly pages load, it’s lightening fast. The site lives on a secure server (https) which are usually much slower at delivering content due to the added encryption between connections. Although there’s barely any images to load the page speed scores we recorded were good but not top drawer. We’ve no idea how it’s that quick so if any techies want to fill us in, please do.
As well as making probably the easiest to use government website in the world the creators have taken the commendable step of realising all of the site code on GitHub. It’s a 2 way street, the GDS hope that other nations will pick up the baton & improve their own civic sites as well as developers coming back with improvements & suggestions for GOV.UK.
The Design Museum described the site as ‘…elegant, and subtly British thanks to a revised version of a classic typeface, designed by Margaret Calvert back in the 1960s.’ We say it serves as a reminder that design is not really about sexy colours, interesting fonts & other tools employed by designers to create impact, it’s about making something that performs the job asked of it to the very best of its ability.