GOV.UK has an instantly recognisable design language. It sets the standard for how we design services across government. Services on GOV.UK are the most visible part of digital teams’ work in government, but departments also deliver many services for government staff that sit outside GOV.UK, such as casework systems and other staff-facing services. For these services, the design language available to designers is not as sharp or clearly defined.
When designing staff and provider-facing services, designers always start with the GOV.UK Design System but may have to design and develop alternative patterns and components to satisfy specific user needs.
When I was head of design at Ministry of Justice Digital & Technology, we reached a tipping point where designers and developers were creating new patterns and components for government staff facing services but without any process or oversight. We recognised a need to establish uniform guidance and to lay the foundations for a more consistent experience that teams can build upon over time. We needed to convince designers that their time was better spent solving design problems on the services they were working on rather than being part of a culture where designing intricate interfaces to leave some kind of design mark was the norm. Services, whether public or internal, should inspire confidence and trust, and meet the highest accessibility and usability standards. Without a system for consistency the way that teams design and deliver multiple services can quickly become fragmented.
With the creation of new patterns and components, there is a need to manage them effectively: helping emerging patterns to mature through use and improvement; providing peer review from the MoJ design team; building up a body of user research evidence; to ultimately making a recommendation for inclusion in the GOV.UK Design System. It was also a great opportunity to build further bridges between different government organisations.
We decided the best way to do this was to create an MoJ Design System which built on the design patterns, components and research evidence in the GOV.UK Design System. The purpose of the MoJ Design System was to extend, not re-invent or replace the GOV.UK Design System. The idea was it served as a central repository for patterns and components in use at MoJ Digital & Technology. In time, any new patterns and components will be passed upstream into the core GOV.UK Design System. The idea was also to be very much part of the wider culture across government of sharing and supporting and developing good practice and ultimately helping everyone solve the problems they were working on on their services.
The vision was to lay the foundations for a more consistent experience: services, whether public or internal, which inspire confidence and meet the highest accessibility and usability standards.