Lessons on web design from GOV.UK

UK Government Website Homepage

Good morning New Zealand. Who else is trying to claim their tax refund and enjoys how the IRD website asks you to login 10 times?

IRD Login Screen

I love that screen. (May be a small lie.)

Last week, the UK Government won “Design of the Year” by Design Museum for their new website GOV.UK. This is the homepage, above the fold:

UK Government Website Homepage

This award has prompted a mass debate in our office. Some people likened the site’s design to a pre-made template or domain parking page.

However, I love it: the interface is so simple that it is near impossible to lose your way. I can do what I need to do as quickly as possible and, like the URL, there is no bullshit. How British. Why do we not design like this more often?

GOV.UK’s recognition by Design Museum is a reminder that online design must place usability, efficiency and accessibility first. As Ben Terrett, head of design at the UK’s Government Digital Service, says: the site “lets design get out of the way”.

We used to measure a website’s success according to a low bounce rate and high time on page. Whilst this remains true for many sites, it is increasingly not true for the rest. The primary goal needs to be to allow the user to spend the minimum amount of time, with the minimum amount of clicks, in order to find what they need.

These principles should apply to any website offering information or a service. Here’s looking at you, NZ Immigration. (If you have ever had to apply for a visa, you will sympathise.)

Fortunately there are some New Zealand websites doing well at this game. Consider Trade MeMetserviceAir New Zealand2 Degrees… all helping you get in and get out in a reasonable amount of effort. The majority of our banks are also kicking ass in the design and usability department.

Hello BNZ:

BNZ Homepage Design

Just compare that to my UK Bank Natwest and squirm.

Whilst BNZ had the money to invest in their website, the good news is that simple design needn’t be an expensive one. So no more excuses, let’s get on with it.


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