Letting govt agencies who don't know what they're doing go out and tender for private sector building of internet services would be a disaster; they'd be oversold six ways from Sunday. Treble the cost to build the same thing three times for the three mobile platforms? Sure. Given that 99% of the stuff is simple secure form-filling, it doesn't need to be more than a web page.
I can file my taxes or renew my driving license online. The system works.
You mean like this? $1.4 million for an app that chooses left or right.
What is this American you speak of? Perhaps it's the unique dialect of Spanish spoken in southern California? Or the Canadian French spoken in bits of northeastern North America? Or the dialect of English spoken in Belize?
Unlike, say, three?
Some things bug me though, as some services are only available during "open hours" (https://www.buysellvehicle.service.gov.uk/sell-private/vehic...): I didn't know that servers needed to sleep.
There's quite a few such systems still left in Government, finance, and certain very large companies. Even some "modern" systems - especially in e.g. stock management - will lock their database for hours at a time overnight. Part of the issue is that these systems implement a huge amount of informally defined business logic, making it very difficult to migrate off them.
A possibly more doable approach would be to provide a read-only dump into an external SQL database at the end of every batch job for external systems which desire such a thing, but I'm not convinced there's a whole lot of benefit compared to the cost of doing so. There's no part of the agency which needs the information out of office hours, and it's honestly quite reasonable to say "come back tomorrow" in the few cases where the public might want the information out of office hours - note that the web interface is replacing having to call up the DVLA or visit one of their offices, which would have the same restriction.
It'd be much more reasonable to spend money and the time of the people who have experience with the system attempting to migrate off it. Hopefully they're trying.
Very clean uncluttered forms with clear direction.
A couple of maybe odd examples to try:
* You're a Brit abroad, had a kid, want to register them as a British citizen (children of British citizens are eligible for it provided they're under 18)
* Renew a passport
* Renew your driving license.
I just tried "renew uk driving license" in Google and got the right page as the first result. Same when I wanted to renew a passport recently, and for the birth example you mentioned.
There used to be one downside to this: scammers would sometimes get search results above the gov.uk one with sites that were not-quite-claiming-to-be the official site, and charge you extra for the "service" of applying on your behalf. However that seems to have been stopped now. Maybe HMG have had a word with Google about it.
So this seemed like a good test run for the UK gov site and the experience (as far as I took it) has been nothing but pleasant. That's how it should be done.
I see there are guidelines about coding in-the-open in Scala .
Or, have a look at the todo-list of the DWP .
And now so can Google thanks to gov.uk forcing use of Google Analytics on all government departments just because "it's private industry best practice".
Before hand there was a mess of documents, pages etc to hunt through, applications to fill out, things to do, documents to include. After the transition there was a small little questionnaire that got me to a beautiful well designed page. That page then had links to all the various things I needed for my application.
There was even a web application that filled out 90% of the application for me and then provided me with a super nice PDF with instructions to submit it, and a check list of all the documents that I needed to provide with my application. It was excellent far better than the preexisting setup.
The dept logo on the header and that's it. leave the rest to the user's browser default.
Apps are expensive to build, allow rampant surveillance that it's very hard to audit under the hood, and mean that customer information is distributed based on your ability to access a smartphone.
The U.K. government also has a poor record of delivering large scale IT projects with complex chains of dependencies (the overhaul of the NHS IT system was cancelled after spending several billions on a Patient Information system that no one ever ended up using). Given the chance, departments would have tried to create the 'Everything App' at enormous expense and with zero interoperability between depts.
The decision to push the GDS methodology across the whole of government was hugely unpopular within the civil service at the time but they've been absolutely vindicated in their approach.
>Apps are expensive to build
>The U.K. government also has a poor record of delivering large scale IT projects with complex chains of dependencies...
No, but bidding on one (web) project rather than three (web, Android, iOS) certainly helps.
How are apps special in these regards?
(Of course, the government already has all of this stuff)
The current www.nhs.uk website may not look pretty and is a bit messy in the way it's organised, but it's a real goldmine of health information.
Plus, you can trust that it's written by qualified medical practitioners.
I really hope the GDS team can make the new NHS site as simple, clear and easy to use as gov.uk.
Slight digression: I'm always a little annoyed when Google gives livestrong.com top billing in their search results when you search for a medical condition. I can understand that people outside the UK might prefer livestrong.com, but I think most UK web users (using Google UK) would consider the NHS website as more reliable and appropriate than livestrong.
User interaction, booking appointments, reading case notes etc, sharing data between medical staff, the big ugly monster that scuppered the previous attempt. Was it really £14b wasted? 
I wish them all the best!
Regarding the the NHS information; this has always impressed me. They put a date on each page when it was last reviewed, and when it is next due to be reviewed. I keep wanting to do this on the websites I work on, if I only I could get beyond maintenance.
 - http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/sep/18/nhs-records-s...
It is strange, as there have long been rumoured to be manual tweaks within Google search that say, for instance, BBC iPlayer radio will always come on top of a search for radio. You'd think there would be even more reason for the same to exist for health information.
The Web is THE open platform of the Internet and if you don't need special native functionality , always go for web.
They've got really great public performance dashboards as well, you can see how many people are using 'gov.uk' right now.
Edit: It's a bit disconcerting 'Give up (renounce) British citizenship or nationality' is the top trending content!
When mid level bureaucrats are getting significant facetime in the media, you should be very wary. Civil servants are supposed to toil in obscurity -- they exist to glorify King and country. When you see exceptions to that, there's often a real shitshow behind the scenes.
> The problem is that public sector agencies tend not to design with citizens in mind. “Things are just designed to suit the very silos that the project sits in, and the user gets lost in there,” Terrett adds.
Amen. Unfortunately, it is very much not how everyone does it.
This actually goes back to Steve Job's original vision for the iPhone. He didn't intend there to ever be 3rd party apps for the phone, because he saw the internet as being the perfect platform for them.
Yet without native apps the iPhone would not have been as successful as it is today.
The web is good enough for dumb CRUD apps though, which are like 90% of corporate apps.
Do you have a link that lays this out in more detail?
There’s no SDK that you need! You’ve got
everything you need if you know how to
write apps using the most modern web
standards to write amazing apps for the
>He didn't want outsiders to create applications for the iPhone that could mess it up, infect it with viruses, or pollute its integrity
No shit. Every design job I've had ever.
Explanation of the difference between USDS and 18F:
True they are responsible for the main chunks of the new gov.uk. But far from all of it.
I should know, as Im involved with the development of a non-GDS part of gov.uk whom do also have some native apps...
The use of responsive websites instead of native apps is a good rule though.
Governments having their services on web is absolutely must but passing a decree against apps does seem a bit odd to me. Isn't it the case that more citizens own phones and have relatively poor connection speeds than other combinations ? Isn't it the case that citizens would be better served by apps that do one job right and do so more efficiently than web ?
I can understand the cost part but it appears to me that the government agency has shut down a completely new avenue of innovation for government agencies with this decree.
As a user, getting me to install your app is a huge barrier. If I don't need to do something every day, I'm probably not going to download and install your app. So wrapping a webpage in an app seems like a really poor decision.
Their decision to use Google as a home page and having all websites as plain as possible is horrific; with a lot of departments and agencies having lacklustre homepages that anyway aren't even aimed at the general public (e.g. arms-length-bodies).
They also made a half-assed job of promoting Agile and UCD through the government, where Agile is now misunderstood and despised. Probably because they never really tried to understand civil service politics.
Good ideas; badly executed.