Latest Recruitment News from ISR

Keep up-to-date with the very latest across the recruitment sector. Access advice and guidance, or simply enjoy a good read

Getting experience with the UK Government Digital Services (GDS) can be a valuable addition to your professional portfolio.

What is GDS: The Government Digital Service (GDS) in the UK has established a set of design principles to guide the development of digital services. These principles are intended to ensure that digital projects for the government are user-centric, efficient, and aligned with best practices. 
Gaining experience with the UK Government Digital Services (GDS) can be a valuable addition to your professional portfolio, especially if you are in the field of digital technology, design, or related areas. Here are a few reasons why:

  • High Standards of User-Centric Design: GDS prioritises user-centered design, aiming to develop user-friendly services and platforms that are accessible to a broad range of people. By working on projects that align with these principles, you can improve your skills in creating easy-to-use solutions.
  • Adherence to Digital Service Standards: The GDS adheres to a set of Digital Service Standards to guarantee uniformity, excellence, and efficiency in digital government services. Being familiar with these standards shows that you can operate within a well-defined system and produce products that meet specific requirements.
  • Innovation and Modernisation: By working with GDS, you can contribute to the modernisation and innovation of public services. GDS is leading the way in adopting new technologies and methodologies. Being involved in these projects can improve your experience with cutting-edge practices.
  • Collaboration Across Disciplines: Collaboration between different teams is common in GDS projects. These teams can include designers, developers, policy experts, and more. Having experience in interdisciplinary collaboration is beneficial in any professional environment as it promotes adaptability and effective communication.
  • Focus on Open Source and Sharing: GDS has a commitment to openness and sharing, often making their code and methodologies publicly available. Contributing to open-source projects or utilising shared resources can be a valuable learning experience and a positive addition to your portfolio.

GDS design principles

The Government Design Principles (GDP) are best-practice recommendations for government to design, build and buy technology.

The GDP was created to establish a cohesive brand identity for numerous Agile teams involved in consolidating the UK Government Digital Services into the new hub, GOV.UK.

Large digital projects often encounter challenges such as budget overruns and technical issues. Moreover, the Government has not consistently delivered successful large-scale digital projects, which may cause skepticism among those in the private sector regarding the potential failure of future governmental initiatives.

To support the Agile teams working on the GOV.UK website, GDS enlisted the expertise of three creatives who provided a set of ten fundamental principles to guide the development process.

  • Start with User Needs: Put the needs of users first. Understand who the users are, what they need to do, and create services that are simple and easy for them to use.
  • Do Less: Only do what is necessary. Streamline services and eliminate unnecessary steps. Focus on what brings the most value to users.
  • Design with Data: Analytics are essential in assisting a design process. Make use of existing real-world data to inform your design. The digital service you produce should also have built-in analytics to provide accessible, helpful information for data-driven decision-making.Use data and evidence to inform design decisions. Continuously gather feedback and use analytics to improve and optimise services.
  • Do the Hard Work to Make It Simple: Making something simple requires effort. Simplify complex systems, processes, and language to improve user experience.
  • Iterate. Then Iterate Again: Accelerate the launch of your digital service by starting with a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). Subsequently, enhance your website through user testing and feedback, incorporating new features in brief iterations. In the event that the MVP falls short, there's no need to fret; simply set it aside and start again.
  • Build for Inclusion: Design services that can be used by as many people as possible. Consider accessibility, and strive to be inclusive to users with different needs and abilities.
  • Understand Context: Be aware of the context in which users will interact with the service. Tailor the service to fit the users, context and make their experience seamless.
  • Build Digital Services, Not Websites: Think beyond websites and consider the entire service. Utilize digital channels to provide end-to-end services that meet user needs.
  • Be Consistent, Not Uniform: Aim for a consistent user experience across different services but recognize that not all services are the same. Tailor design and interaction based on the specific needs of each service.
  • Make Things Open: It Makes Things Better: Share code, be transparent, and collaborate with others. Openness leads to better scrutiny, improvement, and sharing of best practices.
  • These principles outlined above demonstrate a dedication to designing with the user in mind, prioritising efficiency and transparency. 
  • They serve as a framework for the creation of digital services within government departments and agencies, promoting a cohesive and impactful approach. It is important to note that GDS principles may undergo changes over time, therefore it is recommended to refer to the official GDS website for the most up-to-date information.


What are the phases of the GDS process?

The Government Digital Service (GDS) in the UK follows a set of phases when developing and delivering digital services. GDS uses a framework known as the "Service Standard" which includes a set of phases commonly referred to as the GDS lifecycle. Here are the typical phases:

  1. Discovery: Typical roles that support the management of this phase include Discovery, User Researchers (UR), Content Designers, UXUI Consultants (user experience, User Researches), Interaction Designer, Delivery Manager, Business Analysts and a Service Designer. Typically 3 – 6 month projects covering Discovery and Alpha
    Key requirements are to understand and deliver the following:
    1. Objective: Understand user needs and problems.
    2. Activities: Research and analyse user needs, existing services, and potential solutions as well as an ability to Identify the scope of the project.
  2. Alpha: A step on from discovery we are now starting to build the software solution 
    Key requirements are to understand and deliver the following:
    1. Objective: Develop and test prototype solutions.
    2. Activities: Build prototypes to explore possible solutions. Test with a small group of users and to refine ideas based on feedback.
  3. Beta: Typical roles that support the management of this phase include Full stack Developers (Java, JavaScript (JS) Frontend Developes, Backend Develops, Python, C#/.Net AWS, Azure), Tester (QA, Automation) AWS Architect, Azure Architect, Cloud Architect, Platform Engineers, AWS DevOps Engineer, Azure DevOps Engineer, Cloud Engineer, Covers Alpha.
    Beta phases typically 6 – 12 month engagements but projects can go on for years.
    Beta key requirements are to understand and deliver the following:
    1. Objective: Develop and test a working version of the service.
    2. Activities: Develop a functional version of the service. Test with a larger group of users and gather feedback and make improvements.
  4. Live phase: Typical roles for this phase include Live Service Designers, Live Service Managers, ITIL Service Managers, IT Support and Customer Service Executives.
    Live phase key requirements are to understand and deliver the following:
    1. Objective: Launch and operate the service for the public.
    2. Activities: Officially launch the service and make it available to the public. Continuously monitor, improve, and update based on user feedback.

Security Clearances 
In order to work on a GDS project, you must go through a vetting process. This is because working in the government domain means you will have access to private, sensitive, secure, or secret data. For lower level projects, you will need to undergo BPSS clearance, which includes a DBS check and 3 years of UK work references.

For higher levels of clearance, such as "Secret" or "Top Secret" for nuclear, defense, or national security data, you will undergo an SC or DV clearance. These clearances involve more extensive criminal background checks, which may also extend to your relatives. 
Other clearance levels include CTC counter terrorism checks and NVPP non-police personnel vetting procedure. It's important to note that the GDS places a strong emphasis on user research and iterative development throughout the project phases. 

The goal is to create services that meet user needs, are easy to use, and continuously improve based on feedback and changing requirements. The GDS follows agile and user-centered design methodologies in its lifecycle. 
Remember that methodologies and practices may change over time, so it's best to refer to the official GDS documentation or website for the most up-to-date information on their processes and frameworks.

Here are some steps you can take to gain GDS experience:

  • Networking Opportunities: Engaging with GDS can provide opportunities to network with professionals in the government digital services space. Networking can lead to new job opportunities, partnerships, and collaborations. Platforms like LinkedIn can also be useful for building connections.
  • Apply for Government Digital Roles: Monitor job portals and the official Civil Service Jobs website for digital positions in government departments. Submit applications for roles that align with your abilities and interests. Customise your CV to emphasise pertinent experience and skills.
  • Contribute to Open Source Projects: Some government digital projects involve open source contribute. This not only enhances your skills but also showcases your commitment to the field.
  • Participate in GDS Hackathons or Challenges: GDS sometimes arranges hackathons or challenges. Taking part in these events can give you practical experience and a chance to demonstrate your skills. Stay updated with GDS announcements to know about upcoming events.
  • Freelance or Consultancy Opportunities: Discover various possibilities for freelancing or consulting on government digital projects. Certain projects may welcome external professionals, providing an opportunity for engagement. 
  • Many candidates begin their careers in permanent positions and later transition into contracts, either by working directly for the government or through digital agencies that collaborate with them. 
  • They can initially work for private companies like Sopra Steria, CGI, Methods Digital, Hippo Digital, etc., and later be transferred to government contracts. Explore our live roles here.
  • Stay Informed on GDS Initiatives: Make sure to frequently visit the GDS blog, publications, and updates. Keeping up-to-date with the newest initiatives and projects will give you a better understanding of the priorities and challenges that GDS encounters.
  • Collaborate with Local Government Agencies: Think about working together with local government agencies or councils. Even though they are not directly connected to GDS, these opportunities can still be important and beneficial. They might even lead to bigger government projects.
  • Continuous Learning: Keep yourself informed about the latest industry standards, new technologies, and updates in government regulations concerning digital services. By continuously learning, you will become a more desirable candidate for GDS positions. 
  • Don't forget that persistence is crucial. It may take time to gain experience with GDS, but by having the right skills, networking, and taking a proactive approach, you can improve your chances of finding opportunities in this field.
  • Explore GDS Principles: Get to know the Design Principles of the Government Digital Service. By understanding these principles, you will gain valuable knowledge about the approach and mindset used in government digital projects.
  • Online Training and Resources: GDS provides a range of online resources and training materials. You can explore courses and certifications that focus on government digital services. The GDS Academy offers training programs for those who want to work on digital projects for the UK government.

Government Project Case Studies that will follow GDS Standards and Principles 
Large ongoing projects UKHSA 3 year strategic plan - 
Clean Air Zones Project covering the UK -
In order to enhance air quality and promote healthy living, it is important to support the growth of cities while continuously reducing pollution. To achieve this, a new CAZ Service will be developed to handle payments, online accounts, and integration with Local Authority Systems and other Government Departments. This service will enable the charging of motorists who do not comply with the CAZ Framework.

If you want to gain experience with GDS, you can explore our latest job opportunities or contribute to relevant open-source projects.
Moreover, staying updated on GDS principles and practices can be advantageous for interviews and discussions in the digital services industry.