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DVLA, we salute you

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: GDS team

My first visit to meet DVLA in Swansea back in the summer of 2012 filled me with hope.

I met Carolyn Williams MBE, who runs DVLA's tax disc service. She showed me a wonderfully well-categorised list of feedback sent in by users of her very popular online service; tens of thousands of comments each year.

Here was a service manager who was listening to her users. She knew precisely which aspects of her service could be improved.

Her problem was how to deliver dozens of relatively small improvements, without breaking the bank or disrupting other priorities.

So I'm delighted that DVLA, under the new leadership of Oliver Morley, has found a way to help Carolyn and her users. Just before Christmas a new multi-disciplinary delivery team started work in Swansea, using Government Service Design Manual as a guide. When I popped in to see them in late January their story backlog was looking healthy.

Yesterday DVLA announced that they had put the beta release of the online tax disc service live. See the invitation to try the beta at the bottom of the screen grab below.

Screen Grab of new tax disc start page with beta link
The renew your tax disc page on GOV.UK, showing the invitation to try the new beta

Given the user research already done, the DVLA team are confident that the beta will be simpler, clearer and faster for users.

For example, the design now responds elegantly to different screen sizes, meaning the near-40% of visitors to GOV.UK who are using a mobile or tablet will get a vastly improved experience. That's got to help encourage even more people to join the tens of millions who already buy their tax disc online every year.

The new beta now works properly on small screens
New vs old: The new beta now works properly on small screens

So if you're due to renew your tax disc, visit the tax disc page on GOV.UK you'll see an invitation to try the new beta version. The team is as keen as ever to improve the service in response to feedback from users.

What's new is that DVLA can now iterate their service in a fraction of the time, and at a fraction of the cost.

So, in no particular order, congratulations to the DVLA team responsible: Matthew James, Craig James, Emma Kapias, Dianne Williams, Simon Taylor, Bethan Jewell, Michelle Phillips, Nic Walters, Ian Davies, Rhian Williams, Jim Frewin & Mark Jones.

We at GDS salute you. 

PS GDS has had almost no involvement in this project, other than applauding from the sidelines. This isn't one of the 25 exemplar services we're helping departments and agencies transform. As with the new DCMS intranet, this is simply DVLA demonstrating the new normal.

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  1. Comment by Hope i don't get my car stolen posted on

    shame it is not working tonight. been trying for about 5 hours

  2. Comment by Mr Angry posted on

    Yeah, what an outstanding job they did rolling out a beta that doesn't work, leaves pages hanging indefinitely, doesn't give you a progress status and doesn't time out like a standard page to let you actually know when your endeavor has been pointless. Excellent work there, well done. After wasting an hour of my life with this useless beta version I still can't get past step two of the six stage process. Given that renewing your tax online is meant to be a convenient alternative to traditional methods, I'd say that qualifies as a major fail. So, at midnight when my tax expires I'll now be unable to legally use my vehicle until I've waited a further nine hours for a post office to open so I can do it the reliable, old fashioned way. Cheers. Give yourselves a pat on the back.

  3. Comment by Mickey Mouse (web designer) posted on

    Tried using Beta version and it converted (and rounded up) my card number to a real number! So excellent we took a service that was clunky but worked and turned it into streamlined and not working - off to the post office for me then!

  4. Comment by rawduk posted on

    Have recently provided details to "not the DVLA" thinking I was using the beta version. The subsequent email asking for bank details alerted me - then called DVLA to sort my tax - but many would trust the email and provide details. Needs to be looked at. Not having tax has insurance issues - not to mention the potential for other fraud.

  5. Comment by B G FRANKLING posted on

    Making life easier, yes right! Just try re-taxing your car ahead of time when you have to be away in Europe or elsewhere when it has to be renewed, either business or holiday. The exercise is a joke especially if you do not have the luxury of more than 2 weeks before you are expected to leave the UK. The Minister should try it sometime, first problem is actually getting in touch with a human being, then being told to, back re-tax the car at a Post Office for MAY and June and then claiming the money back on the 'old disc'), which expires at end of June, Mmmm now that is a step forward, so this is the new efficient cost saving - welcome to the 'brave new world' untouched by the human brain.

  6. Comment by David posted on

    Just tryed to renew my tax disc online we enterd all the card details pressed next and the cc number and details had been redirected to what looked like a spanish bank ??? we canceld the payment

  7. Comment by Iain posted on

    5 years ago - find insurance certificate, find MOT certificate, find letter from DVLA, get cheque book, queue at Post Office for 45 minutes on lunch break get tax disc. Total time 2 hours (mainly because I'm disorganised).

    2 years ago - find Government Gateway card, find renewal letter go to website, renew tax disc. Total time 25 minutes (I'm still disorganised).

    Last week - receive letter, leave it in obvious place, go to website, renew tax disc. Total time 2 minutes (still disorganised but only one letter to loose)

    Nice work GDS. Making my life easier!

  8. Comment by Alex Robinson posted on

    Too many screens? Having just used it I thought it was as simple as it could be. It is a drastic and welcome improvement to what it used to be.

    Congratulations DVLA. (And GDS too on a successful implementation of your guidelines - the new normal indeed)

    Sorry Mac, the first page of the existing tax disc service asks 4 unnecessary questions (which must be answered before proceeding) and quite a bit of redundant text and links to the MIB databases etc - this pares it right down to the essentials.

    Please, please DVLA now turn your attention to the horror that is the Driving Licence pages.

    That said I nearly didn't try it because I misread the requirements that either the renewal number or logbook number were required on the main page. Perhaps it would be better to explicitly have an "or" between the 2 options - and the same could be said for the explanation of the current service as well. And with regards to Andrew Robertson's comment, perhaps "Apply using the new beta version" would answer his concerns.

  9. Comment by Bob Baynes posted on

    Too many screens, Go to, says apply here, redirects to another screen where you have to start.... 'here' on LH, why not cut that out and start directly?

  10. Comment by David Atherton posted on

    I think DVLA's taxdisc service is a model e-gov service. Obviously soon there will be no physical disc, but the system is neat and tidy. The new one is presumably only an interface improvement, the basic actions must be the same as the 'orange' one.

    Note that the beta has a couple of mistakes, the data entry fields are too small if you have your typesize set to 125% etc. Also for some bizarre reason the CVV digits field has a up/down arrow device in it.

    Also I had to search for this website to feedback, it should be there on the site after you have transacted.

  11. Comment by Billy Bob posted on

    Also worth reading the review into DVLA's digital efforts which highlights some of the issues still to be addressed

  12. Comment by D posted on


    As stated in my comments I think it's a good news story going online and listening to your customers just your a few years behind the private companies but the way the blog was written is that you are leading the way in technology
    but well done in trying to catch up!!

  13. Comment by Andrew Robertson posted on

    Just some feedback: without this blog post I wouldn't have realised there was an existing and a new service being offered on the car tax page. I just saw the big green start button. I thought the text underneath was saying the whole service was new I didn't understand the grey start button. I wonder if it's because it says 'Apply using THE new service' and I would have realised the difference if it said 'Apply using A new service'?

    Will be interesting to see if others are as unobservant as me. Hopefully you'll get lots of applications in the new tool.

  14. Comment by Mac posted on

    I can't remember the last time I went to a Post Office to renew Car Tax.

    The DVLA's online service has been awesome for years. This re-vamp doubtless freshens up the look a bit, but the we-based service from, DVLA has been excellent for ages. Long, long before '' came along.

  15. Comment by Ian Henderson posted on

    That said "D" it makes renewal of my Tax Disk that much easier
    Hopefully next year we will not need paper ?

  16. Comment by D posted on

    Yeah this is all very well a good news story but you can not exactly call this ground breaking, DVLA should of been looking at these services 10 years ago. There are small companies out there offer their products online and have been for years a big well done for finally getting there but once again 10 years behind the banks and the private sector