Web Prototyping Government – the Alpha.gov.uk experience

So then, how did the experiment go? First, let’s remind ourselves of the prototype’s primary objectives

  1. To test, in public, a prototype of a new, single UK Government website.
  2. To design & build a UK Government website using open, agile, multi-disciplinary product development techniques and technologies, shaped by an obsession with meeting user needs.

The prototype was developed in 12 weeks for £261k. It launched 1 day late, but given the need to recruit and gel a suitably skilled project team from inside and outside government, Objective 2  can reasonably claim to have been delivered. A boundary-pushing experimental prototype (aka a Minimum Viable Product ) was delivered by an in-house team working in an openagile way, placing user needs at the core of design process.

This isn’t a new approach, but it’s one that still all too rare across government…

But what about Objective 1? The reaction to the prototype itself?

…the reaction that really matters came from real users. Actively asking people what they think about a new product is always chastening yet ultimately rewarding, akin to a visit to the stern dentist. And we were thrilled with the volume and quality of user feedback garnered. People are so keen to help Government improve our products. We just have to ask for help, listen and respond.

The prototype was by no means perfect – and the Alpha team recognise that. But it was a prototype and that’s the important difference – a completely different approach to IT in government is on display here.