GOVUK Design Principles – first thoughts

Bluetacked to the wall next to my desk at work is a print out of the Fifteen Principles the BBC used for their BBC2.0 project back in 2007. They have followed me from job to job (and job to job!) ever since Tom Loosemore spoke at a JISC conference that year and introduced me to them.

Now the latest project Tom is involved with has provided those principles with seo company uk (or perhaps a successor.) Yesterday the Government Digital Service released their ‘alpha’ Design Principles into the wild. To be honest it wasn’t quite what I was expecting. GDS have talked alot about a Global Experience Language in the same way as the BBC do  and although they (very) recently discussed moving away from using that term I guess I was expecting something much more…practical?

What we have instead are 10 high level, genuine principles that should underpin any and all GOVUK digital activity (with a few examples to back them up). While for GDS they are clearly operational principles I think for many of us around the edges they are more aspirational. They give us something to aim for and guide we can use to frame discussions with decision makers (who mainly see what we do as figures on a spreadsheet and have little feel for wider issues.)

I think they are great and suggest you head on over to the GDS site to read about them properly but here is the basic list;

1.  Start with needs
2.  Do less
3.  Design with data
4.  Do the hard work to make it simple
5.  Iterate. Then iterate again.
6.  Build for inclusion
7.  Understand context
8.  Build digital services, not websites
9.  Be consistent, not uniform
10. Make things open: it makes things better

The team also released a more editorially focused guide that got less attention but is actually really very interesting. The Content principles cover the tone of voice, style and decision making process about the type of content that GOVUK will cover.

The overview of the writing style alone is something that I’ll be pointing a few people at in the coming weeks and months.

  • serious but not pompous
  • in the vernacular😉
  • active and engaging
  • trustworthy and official
  • definitive and authoritative
  • incisive (but still human)
  • brief, succinct and to the point

Congrats again to the GDS team(s) involved in this work and thanks for continuing to openly share all this stuff as you go along. Impressed as I am with the stuff being built I think it is the way it is being done (and the kind of people involved in doing it – from the top down) that is really what is going to change things longer term.