There’s an adage in writing circles known as “kill your darlings”, based on a quote by William Faulkner (“In writing, you must kill all your darlings”). The theory goes that writers should be ruthless about cutting the bits of their work that they love the most, if that’s what the story demands. If you love it, you’re not being objective. If you’re not being objective, it’s likely you’re holding onto it for the wrong reasons and should let it go.
Dropping the words “Inside Government” from GOV.UK, which we quietly did in yesterday’s release, felt a lot like killing one of our darlings.
“Inside Government” has been the name for the government section of GOV.UK since the beta launched in Febuary 2011. An original idea which hit the team’s delivery manager Pete Herlihy in a flash of inspiration (and absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with having recently seen a similar name on the BBC website), the name immediately struck a chord with me.
I felt it encapsulated our proposition (information about how government works and what it’s doing) perfectly. It had none of the stigmas of its alternatives. It’s been the name of our product, our blog and our team. I loved it at first sight, and love it still.
But it was not central to the story, and had to go.
In round after round of user testing, almost nobody has repeated the words “Inside Government” back to us. When asked what site they were using, people just said “GOV.UK”. “Inside Government” did not feature in their mental model of the site at all.
When we then drew users’ attention to the name and asked them what it meant, enough people thought it implied “internal to government” or “intranet” to have us worried.
So we’ve dropped it completely from the navigation banner and all other places on the site.
We will have to address the needs it was intended to meet in other ways:
- to signal the change of proposition when moving between sections of GOV.UK, we’re now using the words “Departments and policy” both on the search results page and on the new homepage. This label will no doubt evolve as more agencies and non-departmental bodies join the site.
- to help users landing directly on government pages when what they really want is mainstream services or information, we will continue to ensure the design gives as many clues as possible as to the kind of content you’re looking at. And, as always, GDS and department content designers need to take care at all times to include prominent calls to action on the any government pages which have related mainstream user needs.
Internally, we’re also starting to phase out the name and refer to the “government section” of GOV.UK.
By taking it away, we’ve taken away nothing. It was not achieving its goals and may even have been making things worse. We’ve killed one of our darlings to make the product stronger.