Simpler, clearer, faster (maybe)

So the the GOV.UK site from the Government Digital Service won the Designs of the Year 2013 award. This is proving to be somewhat divisive:

  • FOR are those designers who appreciate its “agile, user-centred design”
  • AGAINST are those who like a pretty website, and
  • UNDECIDED are those like me who would like to be FOR but, digging a bit deeper, find the site doesn’t really work (yet).

Don’t read the Gov press release or the mainstream press reports about the award, read some commentary:

Web Credible comments:

The GDS followed an agile, user centered design process …. Their website is primarily focused on providing actual users with the best possible experience, to use their tagline “user needs not government needs”. … it’s not what the design looks like but what it has accomplished that is so impressive. … To carry out a successful user centered design project of this scale, for a public facing website, is revolutionary.

I get that, but I’m still not finding the site as user-friendly as the FORs. I don’t find it that easy to navigate and, frankly, the site search sucks.

Have in mind that the site has two distinct parts. First, the front page stuff which essentially tells you (the public/business) about and leads you to the 600+ transactions that we need to carry out with Gov. That is essentially complete. Secondly, there is the Inside Government section (for the pro) to which the corporate elements of the 24 Gov departments and 300 odd agencies are migrating.

To illustrate the shortcomings of search, try the following on GOV.UK; then compare with the the top few hits on Google; then if you’re keen try the searches on Google prefixed with to get a site search using Google:

  • freedom pass (free public transport pass for pensioners in London) (GOV.UK | Goog)
  • dvlc (what is now DVLA) (GOV.UK | Goog) [Update: Now fixed!]
  • legal aid (what little there is of it left) (GOV.UK | Goog) (look a bit further down the GOV.UK results) [Update: Now fixed!]

See? I rest my case. Try your own searches. Tell me what you think.

I tried to discuss this with someone on the GDS blog, but didn’t get very far. GDS are working on search. I do hope so. There’s a long way to go.

I’ve done a fairly dispassionate review of GOV.UK in the Internet Newsletter for Lawyers. I do have good things to say but will leave them for another time.