There's too many good pages to link but to get started:
The US also has some good sites (Healthcare.gov's design pages, federal government's digital team) the main reason I like the gov.uk stuff a little better is because it deals with more than simple design, it gets into philosophy, deployment, and testing.
Their commitment to accessibility is also laudable, unlike other commercial organisations who aren't incentivised to service that minority.
Many people complain that GOV.UK "looks boring" but it's brilliantly effective.
In addition, we were encouraged to throw away PoCs (that had passed the first service assessment) and start anew to make sure we ended up with a great service at the end of it. This meant that inside a pretty large organisation, testing and validating new services was relatively easy as you could cut corners on the PoC and have an institutional understanding that you'd probably throw it away entirely and start again with something more solid.
One of the mantras that was oft repeated was that 'people do not have a choice to use our service' -- because it was a service that only the govt could provide for whatever reason. The government service manual is amazing, alongside things like the service design rules (more aimed at UI/UX designers).
In addition, the entire team for a service or section thereof would participate in nearly everything. User research (actually watching users use the site) - everyone was there, from user researchers to product managers to developers and designers.
It's a shame more of it wasn't adopted by other govt dept (there are notable exceptions who have done a very good job)
 Plug - I worked on the new data.gov.uk
It's always so jarring to be taken back to the odd parts that are still running on the old system (mainly when digging around in PAYE / VAT stuff).
The modern GOV.UK is a breath of fresh air compared to the government's online offerings when I first started in business 8 years ago.
You're not kidding there. Every single time I go to do PAYE I get the same survey questions, even though (when I can be bothered) I tell them they could improve the site by .. not showing me the same survey every time.
Ofcourse not everything in English there, but you also have step-by-step instrucations, can submit applications, filter by state authorities, etc.
As a result, I find myself opening a large number of tabs when getting information about a topic on these sites.
Which is exactly why this step by step solution described in the blog post is so useful. It guides you through the various tasks involved in achieving your initial goal, which is outlined in a persistent progress sidebar. Well done in my opinion.
Meanwhile I have to visit authorities, bring a printed photo, wait and waste time to have my ID renewed in germany. I envy countries liek Estonia or the UK, which offer digital solutions to these common issues.
Their greatest success isn't the website, although it is incredibly clean and easy to use. Their greatest success is distilling bureaucracy down to easy-to-follow instructions - as highlighted in this article. Their content is impeccable. Lists, bullet points, jargon-free "here's what you need to do", for any issue you might have in your life.
gov.uk is a fine continuation of that tradition.
Most common past 'companies' for GDS employees on LinkedIn are Department for Work and Pensions, Cabinet Office, Ministry of Justice & Home Office. All the people I know of there used to work at the BBC.
The "plain English campaign" often boils down to dumbing down copy and removing all words that a 12 year old might not know.
There are many terms, especially legal terms, which have a precise meaning and which are used for a reason.
Teach vocabulary and good English in schools!
When it's a statute or legal judgement I'm happy to see the necessary precision in terminology. When it's a passport application, or an electric bill I'll take the simplest terminology viable. So I can spent the least time skimming it and still get the right information. Much like writing for the web. :)
I don't regret the death of overly flowery Victorian formal business writing. Notwithstanding your views heretofore. :)
Don't forget, unlike other websites and apps, people do not use Gov.uk of their free will. They are forced to use it, in the sense that it is the official source of information and services from the government.
Just like with math, I get the impression that sometimes the level of jargon/legalese used is an attempt to differentiate oneself from the everyday person. The same information could theoretically be put forward in a way which is understandable to all, not just those with a degree.
From experience, the information provided on gov.uk can be incorrect because it is simplified too much. Very important aspects are lost and it becomes misleading.
As the saying goes, simplify as much as possible, but not more.
Where there is essential complexity, explain the complexity clearly and skillfully.
The book Style: Towards Clarity and Grace is a good instruction manual, especially for those who have read Strunk & White
Isn't all advice on how to accomplish a goal going to be prescriptivist?
E.g. in https://www.gov.uk/30-hours-free-childcare?step-by-step-nav=... the eligibility section the first section of bullets is AND and the second is OR.
It's easy enough on this page, but when you are looking at tax rules it can be hard to tell.
Here what the old homepage looked like:
I wonder if it's just been inspired by GOV.UK or if the same group of people (or just some of them) have been involved. Either way seems like they've made a real improvement.
The passports support challenge-response auth, allowing gov.uk to securely identify the passport in a way a device cannot spoof, and the Web NFC API is implemented quite widely now.
The equivalent on my corporate intranet means navigating multiple intranet sites and conflicting guidance.
What would be nice for a next-step for gov.uk is removing the paper forms entirely for fully electronic filing 'self service' for everything. I understand that takes time.
There are two aspects I feel worth mentioning:
1. GOV.UK is not one single unit but rather quite distributed. these styles and standards are created by a central organisation called Government Digital Service, and all the the government departments follow and feedback. There is a design community and one of the ways of collaboration is to use a Wiki https://paper.dropbox.com/doc/GOV.UK-Design-Patterns-Wiki-hk...
2. UK government is a big open source software contributor. Software projects by default are open source on github. It felt really good getting paid for writing open source code when I worked there :)
"I only have a Linux system, how can I get access?"
"We only support Microsoft Explorer."
"So if I use Linux I can't find a job?"
That kind of blinkered approach went on for far too long, so it's a real pleasure to use the various websites on gov.uk at the moment. Even traditionally unpleasant things like filing a VAT return are relatively low friction, and taxing a car is absurdly easy.
Now, how can we get the same sort of thing to happen across Whitehall and Westminster more generally? ;)
Frustratingly the idea will be dead for a good time to come now. For an agency to do this, they need a stick -- I believe the GDS had IT spending levers they could pull to control how money was spent across the entire public sector. This made them quite powerful and ultimately allowed them to say "if you want to publish your agency's content, it has to be on our platform".
The end result is a far better UX.
I did two 6-month stints as delivery manager on GDS “exemplar” projects. I remain a fan.
The exemplar projects in the Australian system were discontinued after the second round, and were really just lip-service -- at the end of the day, even the exemplar projects were at the mercy of internal Departmental IT operations who ultimately decided what went on to their Departmental domains.
I was thinking of other countries with really complicated gov pages must get so much more questions by phone, face to face or email. Probably a magnitude more.
Also these countries learned to answer emails with a template that comes from the website, like copy paste. Therefore the customer need to wait for the template, ask again and wait for the 2nd reply, which most of the time is as bad as the first one. Then you call in. (By the way, looks like PayPal learned this technique as well, send a template to any support ticket, wasting the time)
I think this younger generation prefers to read online, so they did a very good bet
I can only assume that this was one project kept well away from the steer of our politicians!
Instead, lots of small projects written by a young team using sensible technologies and sticking to an excellent set of user interface guides.
The Agile or iterative model, coupled with the sec/devops CI/CD model that includes "own what you build," means that developers and highly skilled devops teams are available to manage a CI/CD pipeline throughout the lifetime of the product.
There is an underlying assumption that you are building to support the growth and revenue model that SaaS companies require to survive and in turn pay for continuous developers.
In public services, there is no such revenue growth. You have a budget for developing it, then hand it over for production, and then you manage it over the long term with more cost effective operators who are largely unionized employees, engaging developers only if needed to reconcile the code with an infrastructure change.
Keeping developers engaged and maintaining CI/CD on a product that does not have revenue or growth means that the cost curve diminishes much more slowly than in the waterfall engineering model. It means we have to ask whether the additional cost yields commensurate benefits, and what budgeting for a service supported by CI/CD truly costs without hockey stick revenue growth attached to it.
I contract to an agency that would benefit from an 18F.gov or gov.uk like digital service, but I have not seen this particular cost issue addressed. Has anyone in gov.uk, 18F or another digital service run up against this, and found solutions?
The advice is "keep the team around for each service indefinitely". Unfortunately this doesn't mesh well with either government technology funding models or the demand for increasing numbers of services.
It isn't like Australia, Sweden, or Vietnam have spent millions of dollars on UX for their tax filing, yet no one uses tax software in those places.
The main reasons are that the tax form comes prefilled, most people don't have to do any adjustments and can just sign it and hand it in. If I understand the US correctly TurboTax does a lot of lobbying against this for obvious reasons.
On top of that filing taxes can be done completely online and when you do have questions the Swedish tax agency is actually one of the most helpful and professional service that I have encountered.
Whether this is because GDS haven't got their teeth into HMRC yet I don't know, but not everything over here is as shiny as some would have you believe.
English version (smaller but directed at non-citizens): https://lifeindenmark.borger.dk/
It's crazy how much you can do on your own and it leads you to wherever you need to go.
The website also changes the available subjects based on the municipal you live in (as an option to avoid confusion).
Almost every page has been written and updated by one of the departments in the government as noted at the bottom of every page.
Sample pages to look at:
https://www.borger.dk/bolig-og-flytning/flytning_oversigt (landing page with popular shortcuts/subjects)
https://www.borger.dk/bolig-og-flytning/flytning_oversigt/fl... (subjects and Start buttons for forms and guides either on borger.dk or one of the other gov websites such as https://virk.dk (company/business registration/management) and https://sundhed.dk (health database with knowledge and journals)
I worked on building out a kubernetes platform for a large Government Department. Once a service passes the initial assessment, they can get assigned control of the sub domain and point it at their own hosting.
(Source: have worked at GDS for the past couple of years.)
GOV.UK aren't quite yet entirely on AWS but are working toward that end. With GOV.UK, all the code is in the open where possible (https://github.com/alphagov/govuk-aws and https://github.com/alphagov/govuk-puppet respectively for the infrastructure).
Source: I used to work at GDS.