Design language for government staff services
- Role: Lead designer
- Organisation: UK Government
One of the biggest design challenges in Government is designing the many services that sit outside of GOV.UK, used by Government staff users.
Digital teams in government spend more time designing and building services for staff users (civil servants) then they do public services for GOV.UK. GOV.UK has a clear design language, with the use of the crown logo and Transport font but licensing restrictions mean they can only be used on GOV.UK. Services for staff users sit outside GOV.UK, so they cannot take advantage of the design language. Without a clearly defined design language, Government departments waste time and effort re-inventing solutions, or leaving services essentially ‘undesigned’.
As a DesignOps team in the Home Office, we identified the need for a seperate and focused design language that could be used across Government on all staff services. Not only is the scale of services produced for civil servants huge, but those services enable staff to provide services to the public. Helping staff work more effectively benefits everyone in the country. Getting this project right would have a huge benefit and was a hugely ambitious task which I was fortunate to lead.
Reuse and building on top of GOV.UK design system
A design language is the visual language of digital services and products. Like any language, it relies on rules to help users understand how to use it. It explains those rules to its users, guiding teams on how to consistently implement the language across a service.
I set out to create consistent guidance that could be used across Government when designing staff services. I wanted to lay the foundations for a more consistent experience that teams could build upon over time. Our services, whether public or staff facing, should inspire confidence and trust, and meet the highest accessibility and usability standards.
Over time, the design language will reduce the cost and effort of delivery sevices.
We're not re-inventing things we already know work well for users. We are building on what we already have in the GOV.UK Design System and collaborating directly with the team working on it. We already document patterns and components that aren’t documented elsewhere in Government. Most of these are from Government staff services. We share these across Home Office and Government in part to help Government staff services meet the same standards as public services.
Creating a design language has the same goals. Staff services should not suffer because they cannot use the GOV.UK design language.
Collaborating across Government departments
We’ve purposely designed this work to be used across departments. We want other departments to be able to re-use it with minimal changes, reducing wasted effort across government. We’ve initially collaborated with GDS, Ministry of Justice and the Department for Work and Pensions to make sure our work will scale.
We’ve already learnt a lot and have been iterating the language to better meet services needs. We already have production services using the work and have seen the language work across a range of service types.
My favourite feedback so far has been how the work is both underwhelming and a complete breakthrough. So far in research users have ignored the visual design of the services and just got on with their jobs. This is exactly the result we want for a design language for staff services. The design language should build trust and be a base for designing a very usable service. We have achieved that.The design language