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The vision for GOV.UK is to make government work for users

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Vision and plans

Cropped section of the vision text on a poster

In October I said I'd be rebooting the long-term vision for GOV.UK.

This is the result.

You can see it as a presentation (on Slideshare and in PDF), this blog post and a set of posters.

If you work in government please share it with your colleagues.

There's never been a better time to be part of this revolution and we're hiring. We're posting more jobs all the time, so keep checking or say hi and introduce yourself.

Short version

The vision for GOV.UK is to make government work for users. To do that GOV.UK will:

  1. provide coherent services that are easy to discover and use
  2. make government participative, open and accountable
  3. help government communicate with authority and trust
  4. make great digital and user-centred publishing easy
  5. make government content easy to re-use and build on

Long version


The original vision for GOV.UK was a rallying cry which set a very clear direction: consolidate thousands of domains into one, with a focus on user needs and continuous improvement - creating the GOV.UK we have today.

While GOV.UK has become the best place to find most government services and information, and is now an essential part of UK national infrastructure, it’s far from the best place it can be. There’s much more to do to bring government’s web estate together, merge content and transactions to form coherent services, and curate them to meet users’ real needs.

GOV.UK must be a constant revolution. We need an equally clear direction for everyone whose work contributes to its ongoing development.

Updating the vision

Between November 2015 and February 2016 the GOV.UK leadership team has taken stock of what’s still left to do
 and gathered ideas from more than 150 people inside and outside government, to create this refreshed vision.


It’s not a plan for delivery, but describes an ideal future GOV.UK that we will iterate towards.

It refers to the GOV.UK website, publishing platform, all government content and the ways in which those things integrate with transactions and offline help to form a unified user experience. It’s relevant to everyone whose work contributes to that user experience - from teams in GDS to service and content owners throughout government.

Vision statement

The renewed vision for GOV.UK is "to make government work for users".

It’s an ambition which reflects the power and potential of GOV.UK.

As the interface between users and government, GOV.UK has enormous potential to close the gap between them. It can make every user’s need heard within government, help government meet those needs in the most convenient way possible, and make government more accessible and accountable to its users.

Having brought government together, we now need to make government work for users.

What does that look like?

We’ve distilled thousands of ideas about what GOV.UK should become into 5 statements, all of which need to be true to make government work for users.

GOV.UK will:

  1. provide coherent services that are easy to discover and use
  2. make government participative, open and accountable
  3. help government communicate with authority and trust
  4. make great digital and user-centred publishing easy
  5. make government content easy to re-use and build on

In more detail

1. GOV.UK will provide coherent services that are easy to discover and use

For example, it will:

  • meet every valid user need, from the most common to the most specialist
  • bring content, transactions and support together as coherent services
  • make services easy to find through navigation, search and notifications
  • make information clear, concise and simple at every level of detail
  • remove the need to know how the state works, not just central government

2. GOV.UK will make government participative, open and accountable

For example, it will:

  • make government structure, leadership and policy clear
  • make it easy to see what government is doing, saying and changing over time
  • make it easy to see evidence for decisions, and evidence of outcomes
  • help users feed back on and influence government plans

3. GOV.UK will help government communicate with authority and trust

For example, it will:

  • give users reassuring, definitive answers in a single place
  • provide information people need during emergencies and major events
  • convey the government’s unmediated position, domestically and internationally
  • support clear and effective announcements and campaigns

4. GOV.UK will make great digital and user-centred publishing easy

For example, it will:

  • make high quality digital publishing easy, fast and cheap
  • provide HTML formats so good PDFs become the exception
  • make it easy to base content decisions on evidence of need
  • show how well needs are being met, and highlight failure
  • make it easy to test and iterate different approaches

5. GOV.UK will make government content easy to re-use and build on

For example, it will:

  • provide government content and data in stable, machine-readable formats
  • provide digital representations of real world things, backed by registers
  • offer ways for government (and suppliers) to share our publishing service
  • fully open-source GOV.UK’s code for others to run and contribute to

Taking this vision forward

This vision will guide our plans as GOV.UK develops. Big changes will be taken forward as projects, and we'll iterate towards these statements in small ways all the time. To see what we’re working on and planning, subscribe to this blog.

I'll post again in a few weeks to talk about how we'll start moving toward this vision in terms of priorities for the coming year.

Neil Williams is the Head of GOV.UK. He tweets as @neillyneil

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  1. Comment by Tim Blackwell posted on

    This sounds great. Two caveats.

    .GOV.UK really needs to get its act together on fact-checking, which has been awful. I don't know the exact chains of responsibility, but alongside the 'death of context' issues, this has really alienated specialist users. And the public are misinformed.

    On HTML vs PDF. It should be remembered that the web is writ in water, whereas PDFs (notwithstanding their evident disadvantages) are mine to keep. If HTML is to replace PDF there should be a policy of no deletions (except in exceptional circumstances, with grounds made public), Every version of every published page should be maintained and publically visible (with appropriate status tags). There should be a formal framework (registration, versioning, signing etc) for this.

    • Replies to Tim Blackwell>

      Comment by Neil Williams posted on

      Hi Tim - yes I agree fully. Current thinking is that we will provide a full, public version history of every change to web content, and that our publication formats will output to whatever portable formats people need (PDF, ePUB etc) but be natively HTML, so they work on every device, are future-proof, syntactically structured hypertext. PDFs will have a role, but shouldn't be the only or the native format of the source content.

  2. Comment by John Hope posted on

    All sounds good. But I just can't tell what's changed - can you explain?

    • Replies to John Hope>

      Comment by Neil Williams posted on

      The focus of the original vision, which has guided our work over the last 4 years, was all about replacing a sprawling landscape of thousands of domains with one. So this vision starts from the point where we've done that and looks at how we build on it. While there's lots in here which carries forward things in the original vision (like 'going wholesale' with APIs) there's also loads in this that we've never said before (the bits about journeys to the whole state not just central gov, our aspirations about democratic transparency and participation, and about transforming government publishing models, for example).

  3. Comment by Tom posted on

    Good blog.
    But what does "it will: provide digital representations of real world things, backed by registers" mean?

    • Replies to Tom>

      Comment by Neil Williams posted on

      Apologies this wasn't clear. This means things like a page for every country, local authority, government building, school, river, court, prison (and potentially house, vehicle) combining data from multiple registers (eg, for a property, information about its boundary from Land Registry, flood risk from Environment Agency, council tax band from Valuation Office Agency) - see for more info.

  4. Comment by Simon Pearce posted on

    Good blog Neil, Having spent most of my career delivering moribund technology to the finance sector I can honestly say the two years I spent with MoJ and latterly on the Home Office IPT program were the most exciting of my career. Back in the private sector again I often evangelize to colleagues about where the Digital Agenda is leading the way in so many sectors,
    Is it your sense that consensus and agreement has been reached across government departments, Cabinet Office, and GDS on what the end state model of government-owned, private-sector supplied technology platforms looks like? During my Home Office tenure in 2014 there was some parochialism in evidence and resistance to unification towards a common cause,

  5. Comment by Craig Cockburn posted on

    This sounds great, but will you reach a meaningful velocity? Some additional thoughts which I hope you will take constructively: