Where are your principles?


When defining a digital proposition you start with the question or the problem. Then come the objectives, KPI’s, rationale, casing and research ready to start scoping and design. However, it hasn’t been till this year that as part of this framework, I have made digital principles (more than just ‘follow the design guidelines from Brand’) a critical element.

Each proposition will sit within the context of the wider business strategy but the means of getting there can result in very different approaches. An example would be the design of a content driven site – building our reputation as subject matter experts and providing a way for customers to engage directly with our experts. Put this against delivery of a functional form that is as much about the demonstration of enduring back-end integration and cross-business collaboration as it is delivery of a user friendly interface. Clear digital principles is what ties your totally different digital services together.

Why is it so important?

  • The business is aligned
  • The team is aligned
  • Provides the framework for design
  • Ensures consistency across the digital service
  • Challenges mediocrity and assumptions
  • Don’t miss anything and reduce errors
  • Digital is embedded into the culture
  • Re-enforces the vision
  • Optimise ways of working

The list can go on, but I think you get the picture.

An example of principles in action

Unsurprisingly I’m going to point to the Government’s Digital Service design principles which underpin the award winning gov.uk site. These ten principles help bring together a disparate group of services from across the country into one consistent view.

Start with needs*

Do less

Design with data

Do the hard work to make it simple

Iterate. Then iterate again.

Build for inclusion

Understand context

Build digital services, not websites

Be consistent, not uniform

10 Make things open: it makes things better

The thing which is really inspiring is the way the Government’s Digital Service (GDS) have executed the digital transformation. They have been open, wholly transparent and have unashamedly shared. That is because what they have delivered is what the customer wants, not what the board or an executive wants but what the customer wants. So there is no reason to hide and every reason to share as this simple approach impacts not just customer on-site interaction but the very way people feel about the service. The brand impact is huge, the benefits to the business enormous and this is what makes them leaders in digital service delivery.

In many ways a website should be a beautiful by-product of a manifested vision.

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