Government Websites: Three Things the UK Does Well set an example and others followed

In 2012, the Government Digital Service team launched a new home for the Cabinet of the United Kingdom replacing two sites: directgov and business link, and it was truly simple. No unnecessary imagery, homepage flashiness or marketing ploys. On, you find information related to government services, and that’s about it.

The GDS team created seven digital principles that provide the vision and governance model for the site. set the standard and many council and cabinet sites have followed in suit.

Take a look at, for example. Their web team maintains a similarly minimal site governed by the same GDS principles.

Though not all government domains are so radically paired down, there are three noteworthy practices we see in recently redesigned or restructured UK sites that work in conjunction with the GDS digital principles that truly make them stand out.

The redesigned sites are smaller

A whole year before’s launch, the staff at were thinking that less is more. Of their old site’s 4000 pages, 85% of the traffic was going to just 200. In a major site overhaul in 2011, they reduced their site to 400 pages and have kept it small using a content strategy that focuses on the user. The result? “The refreshed website has witnessed a 28% increase in visitors accessing pages directly.” (liverpooldirectlimited)

I encourage everyone to check out Liverpool’s slideshare presentation on their site overhaul, Wrestling the Content Monster.

They were tested with users

According to an article published on the, the redevelopment team for Maidstone Borough Council used focus groups, opportunities to showcase the beta site, and contacted users via email.

Web Usability, a consulting agency in the UK has worked with many agencies and councils to provide user testing. You can read their case studies and what they found working with users on prototype designs and beta sites.

They focus on their services

GDS principles one and two are Start with Needs and Do less. (The U.S. site how says the same thing: Focus on top user tasks and don’t duplicate efforts of other agencies).

This last point is where I believe these example UK sites really stand out. They’re not focusing on user tasks in addition to other political priorities. When we figure out what the user is looking for and simply add that to the information everyone else wants on the site, we just end up with a cluttered site.

It’s difficult to serve two masters: what the customer cares about and what the administration cares about. So here’s my question: how do we as communication and web specialists change our thinking from the top down? How do we prioritize users and build sites that reflect their needs?

Do you have example sites from the US or other countries that do this well?

Jera Brown is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

Leave a Comment


Leave a Reply