The Designs of the Year is an annual celebration of the most innovative and imaginative designs from around the World held at the Design Museum in London. ‘The Oscars of the design world' showcases projects from the Worlds of Architecture, Digital, Fashion, Furniture, Graphics, Transport and Product design, and honours the best overall project with the 'Design of the Year' award. Past winners include the London 2012 Olympic torch and the Plumen light bulb. So it's with special interest that this years award was given to the redesign of the UK government’s website – GOV.UK. It's great to see a digital project receive this kind of accolade in amongst an array of high profile projects and from such a diverse range of industries. But the most interesting thing about the award is that it's for a public sector, service-based website where the design consideration can often be overlooked and that the site itself is a great example of user-centred thinking and refined digital design.
'Simpler, cleaner, faster'
The design process appears to have been an exercise in reduction combined with inspired lateral thinking. Images, website furniture (the lines and boxes around information) and non-essential text and links have been kept to a minimum or removed entirely.
One of the most striking features of this reduction is that the site doesn't have a top navigation. Instead the homepage acts as a contents page with lists of links under three main headings giving users direct access to the area of the site they're looking for. As a substitute, the search function has been emphasised and, on the home page, takes centre stage as the main call-to-action, making the site feel like it's focussed on the users needs rather than the government’s internal processes, as could easily have been the case.
It almost goes without saying that the site is responsive and it makes good use of large font sizes and white space as is fast becoming the norm. The end result is intuitive and visually pleasing and embodies the stated intent to be 'Simpler, cleaner, faster'.
Behind the scenes
The project was developed by the 'Government Digital Service'; a new internal team tasked with transforming the government’s digital services and they've gone to lengths to record and explain their process and approach. This helps to inform and educate the public and other stakeholders in the project and also provides an insight for people in the digital industry. Their blog does this well, featuring weekly interviews with team members alongside insights into their various projects and the relationships they're building with digital teams from other governments. But, for me, the most interesting insight is the 'Design Principles' page where they've detailed their approach to design and user-experience. This clear vision is what I believe has led to such a successful project and rightly justifies it's recognition as the Design of the Year.