My design leadership for the Cabinet Office began in the months before the formation of the Government Digital Service (GDS), working with a team of a dozen engineers on the Alpha.
The alpha was a proof-of-concept “single-domain” replacement for all central government sites – demonstrating how it would be better at meeting users’ needs and millions of pounds cheaper than the outsourced departmental sites it could replace. I was part of the original ‘skunkworks’ style team of just a dozen digital folk working covertly for three months in a disused government office.
Software engineers, designers, and content strategists, we produced several sections of published content and a few simulations of transactional services. The purpose was to win stakeholder buy-in from central government, and approval to establish a centre of digital expertise within government to build the site for real.
With the alpha behind us, we set forth to make the real GOV.UK website, starting small and iterating towards a public release about a year later once we had all the content ready, and had grown GDS to being a fully fledged department able to take on the running of a large website.
Whilst much of the alpha was created based on our own knowledge and expertise, the beta relied more heavily upon the domain experience of specialists from across government, and bringing the rest of government with us on the journey of digital transformation.
It was during this period that we started to think about transitioning the first transactional services to GOV.UK. This was appealed to me more than continuing to work on content publishing, so I moved to lead the design for transactions. I worked as the Cabinet Office stakeholder for many departmental digital teams, and being hands-on for some of the Cabinet Office’s own services (read my case study of the Register to vote service).