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GOV.UK Accounts: enabling proactive, personalised and joined-up services

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: GOV.UK, Transformation

A graphic showing the government blazon with an arrow going back and forth to a crown GOV.UK logo, which also has an arrow back and forth to a person symbol. Surrounding the arrows are logos depicting charts, text boxes and tech devices.

We've been trialling a GOV.UK Account on the Brexit Checker since last November. It's a way of letting users save their personalised answers, receive notifications and log back in to see what they need to do. We've written lots of blog posts about our work to show the different aspects of the trial - for example how we designed it, our privacy principles and our user research.

While we've been actively blogging about the trial, I also wanted to give an update on the longer term thinking behind our GOV.UK Account work since I last introduced it back in September 2020. I wanted to write about what a GOV.UK Account could enable, and what we still need to make that vision a reality.

The vision for GOV.UK

In my 2021/22 update for GOV.UK, I covered how we're now implementing what's needed to make sure GOV.UK can provide proactive, personalised and joined-up services on GOV.UK. Our public roadmap shows how our work fits together and what we're working to solve.

Here's a quick video that explains it.

Our GOV.UK Accounts work is an important enabler for this work, and a leading part of Mission 2 of the Government Digital Service's strategy for 2021 to 2024: "Joined-up services that solve whole problems and span multiple departments". It will help eliminate the need for people to understand government, in order to interact with it.

GOV.UK as it stands

GOV.UK currently is a central publishing platform to which more than 300 transactional services are attached. Almost all users start their journey by reading some information, before heading off into a service.

However, given GOV.UK holds a lot of information - more than 500,000 pages currently - sometimes just finding the information or service you need can be time consuming. Sometimes this is also combined with people not necessarily knowing what it is they need to know or do, or what they are entitled to.

This is why we're working on a GOV.UK Account - it's part of the infrastructure that will enable us to provide tailored experiences to the user - so that they can find the information they need to know, when they need to know it, on a device that works for them.

Building on the trial, we are progressing our work and expanding the GOV.UK Account across the GOV.UK platform.

Acting as a 'home account'

In time, we see a GOV.UK account acting as a 'home account' for the user from which they can have a consolidated view of all their interactions with the government, then allowing them to go deep on whatever it is they want to do - complete a service, fill in a consultation or so on.

An early sketch of what a GOV.UK Account could look like with Account, Manage, Security in one column and then services in another column.
An early sketch of what a GOV.UK Account could look like

It doesn't matter where on GOV.UK a user signs in - the 'home account' element of this remains consistent. Think of this like deciding to purchase something online - you can have a 'guest checkout' but if you are a repeat user then you would sign in and, as well as being able to complete your transaction there (with that seller, let's say), you would also be able to see, use and manage your account with that company - like applying your bank details to that particular purchase, rather than re-entering them.

This model is not about making the join-up obligatory for the user, but to provide them with an option - to have some persistence with GOV.UK - that we believe will give them a better level of service.

Giving users continuity and curation

Expanding the GOV.UK Account across the publishing platform advances the goal to give the user continuity and curation of their experience with government online.

An account will allow users to have a quick route to the information they need. It can also let the user curate this view themselves, and will help them manage their different personas (personal, professional, as a carer, business owner and so on).

Progressing what GOV.UK Accounts can enable

To implement Mission 2 of GDS's strategy, we want to expand what a GOV.UK Account can do. We'll be doing this with the digital identity programme and their One Login for Government vision. Their role is to remove the friction of having different accounts with different government services.

This relationship - between access management, trust in someone's identity, and the level of service the account will provide - allows us to progress 2 further goals:

  • allow the user to tell government once ("I've had a change in employment")
  • deliver services that are end-to-end so that they make sense to the user

Which is to say, if we're really confident we know who you are then we might allow you to change your personal data, to get money from government, or act on behalf of a business, for example. If we're not that confident in who you are then those kinds of options won't exist for you within the account.

Similarly, there are lots of interactions with government that are not single transactions - they happen over time or are complex topics. Life events - like having a child, moving into new markets, or retiring. This kind of infrastructure - the GOV.UK Account secured through access management - will allow us to radically reimagine how we provide that kind of end-to-end service.

There are a bunch of other things this work can enable, but for now this is enough for us to be getting on with!

Get in touch if you'd like to find out more about this work - we'd love to talk.

Find out more about our work by reading our GOV.UK roadmap or subscribing Inside GOV.UK.

We're hiring across GOV.UK! If you think this work sounds interesting and something you want to be involved with, take a look at GDS's career page.

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  1. Comment by Andy posted on


    Sounds really good, really good step forward. My question is why is this being implemented now? Was it a case of there is now a new user need that didnt exist before for this, or was there simply never capacity before to implement it? Or has there been a more strategic directional changing that previously prohibited such an account which has now changed?

    • Replies to Andy>

      Comment by The GOV.UK Team posted on

      Hi Andy,

      Thank you for your comment.

      GOV.UK has always been about joining different parts of government and services up. We do this to make sure we’re meeting user needs, and helping the millions of people that visit GOV.UK weekly. The GOV.UK Account work builds on this mission; helping to simplify the user experience on GOV.UK and make it as seamless as possible.

      There’s also been a significant shift in the way people interact online since GOV.UK was launched nearly a decade ago - and people now expect digital services to be personalised, proactive, easy to use and available on multiple platforms. We want to make sure GOV.UK keeps pace. You can read more about this in our GOV.UK Accounts launch blog post.

      It’s also a key part of our work in delivering our vision for GOV.UK: to provide joined-up, personalised and trusted interactions. You can find out more about how we’re implementing that vision in our roadmap.

      The GOV.UK Team

  2. Comment by Darren Rogers posted on

    Are there any plans to roll this out to local authorities. Many LA's have citizen 'My Account' service, which are generally disjointed, as rarely act as a single front door to service. In theory the GOV.UK Account could be integrated with the various third party self service products used by LA's, for things like council tax or benefits using an SSO.

    If a central user account was used by both central and local government it would bring us all closer to a true tell us once experience . If they move to another borough they can then use the same account, rather than having to set up another.

    • Replies to Darren Rogers>

      Comment by The GDS Team posted on

      Hi Darren,

      We absolutely see the potential for the GOV.UK Account to unify interactions with central and local government in future. However, our initial focus will be on central government to allow us to refine and test GOV.UK Accounts.

      We’ll continue to blog about our upcoming plans and progress on the GOV.UK Account, so please subscribe to keep updated.

      The GDS Team

  3. Comment by Adam posted on

    Great to see this moving forward and excited to see it develop over the coming months and year/s. A future where I don't need to study the inner workings of policy and what it means for me personally is one I can get behind!

    One question I had was about the difference between the GOV.UK Account and the plan for the 'one login for government'. Are they one and the same thing, or different strands that will link together? Has there been thinking of how the two will sit side by side?

    Keep up the good work.

    • Replies to Adam>

      Comment by The GDS Team posted on

      Hi Adam,

      Thank you for your comment. Yes, there’s been lots of thinking about how the two will sit together as they are separate but complementary programmes of work.

      GDS is working to create a more seamless experience for a user on GOV.UK. This includes the work of the GOV.UK Account team and the plan for the 'one login for government' led by the Digital Identity Team. The sign-in and digital identity assurance product will enable users to sign into their GOV.UK Account and access applicable government services. The GOV.UK Account will then provide a unified experience across GOV.UK and its many services.

      We’re going to be blogging soon about our upcoming plans for digital identity, so please subscribe to keep updated.

      Thank you,
      The GDS Team