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This blog post was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

This is why we are here

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: GDS team, GOV.UK

We have released the beta of GOV.UK, testing a simpler way to get to government services and information…

The beta of GOV.UK is now live.

Back in late summer last year, I wrote that ‘we exist to make public services digital by default, and we are relentlessly focused on user needs.’ About 10 minutes ago we released the next step on our journey toward a single domain for government - and it has been driven entirely by focusing on user needs: creating simpler, quicker, easier to find information and transactions.

That journey started with Martha Lane Fox’s report demanding that government improve its services on the web and Francis Maude’s affirmative reply. This led to the formation of our organisation - the Government Digital Service (GDS) and to the GOV.UK alpha just a few months ago. And now we’ve released the beta.

What is GOV.UK?

This is our first big platform. It aims to deliver simpler, clearer, faster services for users and savings and innovation for government, all on a single domain.

Up to now, we’ve been in a world like this:

Two big areas of centralised content - Directgov and Business Link - plus hundreds of other websites from central government departments and agencies.

Getting to that was a tremendous achievement, and the era of web convergence under Directgov has readied Government and users for a single, centralised publishing model based on user need. However, this 8-year old model is starting to show its age and cause significant problems. It’s expensive and difficult to maintain, experiences for users can be confusing and inconsistent and it’s hard to manage effectively where people end up when they look for government information and services on search engines. Above all it’s insufficiently focused on users and their needs.

So we’re planning a model more like this:

Many, but not all, of the same needs met, but with a product that is redesigned, rewritten and rethought to offer a simpler, clearer, more consistent design, properly managed search and a user-focused service experience.

What is the GOV.UK beta?

The beta is just the next step on the journey, but it’s a significant one.

It’s a version of the design and coding work we’ve been doing since the alpha, putting some of those ideas into practise at a significant scale. It addresses 667 of the most common and important mainstream user needs, made simpler, clearer and faster for users. So it’s not everything but it’s the most important content to start with. We’ll be improving and tweaking this on a daily basis - responding to your feedback and studying how people use the site.

Then in a few weeks we’ll be launching a similar beta of the ‘corporate’ aspects of GOV.UK (information that government departments publish about their activities) and later in the year we’ll be addressing the specific needs of business-related users.


This beta is here to be improved, it’ll get better based on your feedback. If you have any thoughts, ideas or issues please let us know via the feedback page, and keep checking here for updates. Now we have a platform in place which we drive according to user need and feedback, we can and will iterate wildly at no extra cost.

Read more about the beta of GOV.UK  in Tom Loosemore's post here and in the slides below:

Mike Bracken-Image courtesy of Harry Metcalfe

Mike Bracken is HM Government Executive Director of Digital, and runs the Government Digital Service at the Cabinet Office.

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  1. Comment by What’s up GOV? « Binary Law posted on

    [...] intention of the new sites is explained by Mike Bracken of GDS (at alpha stage back in January 2012). Compared to Directgov and BusinessLink, GOV.UK addresses [...]

  2. Comment by guzelevimizmir posted on

    It souds good that, Directgov and Business Link ,together.

  3. Comment by Bank Holiday story – is it really simpler, clearer, faster? | Government Digital Service posted on

    [...] talks a lot about meeting user needs as the defining principle behind GOV.UK, and, of course, one of GDS’s design principles is to [...]

  4. Comment by Jeremy Tomlinson posted on

    Hi, I'd be really interested in what the "667 of the most common and important mainstream user needs" are. Great site though, I've been following for some time but have been meaning to re-read this post. Congratulations to all involved.

  5. Comment by Precious Snowflakes « Microformats & the semanantic web posted on

    [...] feels like some kind of Orwellian nightmare: the relentless focus on user needs leading to a future of identikit pages, with no individuality, no character, no clue that behind [...]

  6. Comment by jasonlower posted on

    I would just like to echo what Wired Canvas said. A big improvement on the existing Government websites.

  7. Comment by Wired Canvas posted on

    I am really impressed by the new site - it is such a shock to see a government website that (as well as being functional) is also beautiful. Good work guys.

  8. Comment by Radiating Information | Government Digital Service posted on

    [...] GDS, you will repeatedly hear that meeting user needs is the defining principle behind GOV.UK. There are a number of data sources that help us design and iterate the products we are building, [...]

  9. Comment by Writing simply: language choices for the GOV.UK navigation | Government Digital Service posted on

    [...] being obviously quirky or clever and it doesn’t need to feel especially weighty or governmental. It needs to get out of the way and get you where you need to go. We’re aiming for a sort of ‘web service vernacular’ – the language we’ve all grown [...]

  10. Comment by A quiet revolution in UK government IT: open source ousting big-vendor lock-in « Tim Anderson’s ITWriting posted on

    [...] more information see Mike Bracken’s post This is why we are here, and take a look at the team’s early work on GOV.UK, which is in [...]

  11. Comment by GOV.UK- a truly open and collaborative platform | Government Digital Service posted on

    [...] Mike Bracken says, we are not just improving the online experience for users but demonstrating real innovation and cost.... In the old ‘unacceptable’ world, how much would this simple change in code have [...]

  12. Comment by Matt posted on

    First time I've seen the space that is supposed to occupy clearly described, so thank you.
    Am curious to know whether you see the 'Specialist needs' bit replacing business link, or business link + some/all of the little boxes (since I imagine that's where the majority of cost and effort would be needed, should they all be retained).
    To put it another way, will you be redesigning/reimplementing any transactional stuff any time soon, or will you keep on handing it over to the various departments, councils etc?

  13. Comment by Johnston Neill posted on

    If I want statistics, what do I do? I see nothing on the home page to help me and if I search for "statistics", I get a list of pages related to motoring (but no statistics).

  14. Comment by Russ posted on

    Not at all convinced your cookie approach is correct. Your splash page stating "Closing this page sets a cookie" doesn't state what the cookie is or does, and it forces the user to accept the cookie if the rest of the site is accessed. Hardly 'informed consent', is it?

  15. Comment by Anon posted on

    So this is different to the Alpha how exactly?

    • Replies to Anon>

      Comment by James Taylor posted on

      The Alpha was more about the concept and idea, and trying new quicker cheaper ways to develop.

      The beta of the site works – we've built the deep infrastructure and we're adding new features all the time

      We've taken the Alpha feedback and used it to drive improvements in this version

      The beta of is to make sure that nothing technical breaks and to get public feedback on whether it really is clearer, simpler and faster. It won’t be complete - we’ll continue to improve it week in week out over the coming months.

  16. Comment by Introducing the beta of GOV.UK | Government Digital Service posted on

    [...] domain for central government. As Mike Bracken, HMG Executive Director for Digital said, our aim is to deliver simpler, clearer, faster services for users and savings and innovation for [...]