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GDS streamlines Service Standards


The Government Digital Service (GDS) has reduced the number of points within the new set of standards for public facing transactional services, set to come into force at the beginning of July.

It has reduced the number from 18 to 14 and urged government bodies to use the new standards for any projects entering the discovery phase after 30 June.

According to a blogpost on the change, they have been written to be used by all of the public sector.

“The standard might have started life as a tool for central government teams working on public-facing transactions, but now you can use it if you’re, say, working in a local authority – and we’ve made it easier to use with internal or non-transactional services too,” it says.

Beyond digital

Louise Downe, director of design and service standards, highlighted in a series of tweets that the standards now go beyond digital to take in policy and operation parts of a service.

She said they are aimed at solving whole problems across departments in designing services, and pointed to the need to provide a joined up service across channels and make sure people can switch if they need to. This comes with a requirement to collect personal information only if it is needed and to give service users control of their data.

Downe also urged users to understand and contribute to the components and patterns in the standards, to help adapt and improve them over time.

“We’ve only changed what needed to be changed,” she said. “All the awesome stuff that worked before is still there.”

Some of the standards are repeated from the old version, such as understanding users and their needs, having a multidisciplinary team, iterating and improving services and making new source code open.

Others have been folded into broader standards within the new set. For example, the previous insistence on making sure the experience is consistent with the GOV.UK platform has been incorporated into making the service simple to use.


In some cases this amounts to consolidating the older standards, such as bringing together those on the need to collect performance data, identify performance indicators and repeat performance data on the Performance Platform into a simpler instruction to ‘define what success looks like and publish performance data’.

Another change is that the standard to encourage everybody to use the service has morphed into making sure that everyone can use it. This includes an emphasis on accessibility, directing service teams towards the relevant standards and telling them to avoid excluding any groups they are intending to serve.

A notable omission from the new set is the need to test a service from beginning to end with the responsible minister. This reflects the intent to make the standards relevant to the public sector beyond Whitehall.

GDS has also published a new version of the Service Manual to support teams in changing to the updated standard, and says it will give users the chance to ask questions and talk about the elements that matter to them.

The old Digital Service Standards had been in place since 2014, with the previous update taking place in 2015. This also involved a streamlining with a reduction of the number from 26 to 18.

Extra material added on 10 May to reflect tweets from Louise Downe

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