In a bid to “modernise” and “transform”, the UK Home Office has announced plans to implement a user-centred design approach across its digital platforms and technology.
A tender document published to the gov.uk Digital Marketplace reveals the department is seeking the expertise of external suppliers to deliver this.
“Increasingly reliant on tech”
The contract notice explains that currently a large number of services fail to meet the government Service Standard – a 14-point manual to “create and run great public services”. According to the document, issues often relate to “understanding users and their needs, solving a whole problem for users, making the service simple to use and making sure everyone can use the service.”
Website accessibility standards in particular have been a concern of the government in recent years. This year saw the first implementation of the public sector website accessibility regulations, with the second deadline coming in September 2020.
The department says it is “increasingly reliant” on technology and needs help to make offerings “fit for the future”. This refers to internal as well as public-facing platforms for both customers and staff.
Avoiding a “shortfall of skills”
The listing appears deliberately vague on how this might be approached and any of the department’s services – including immigration complaints, visa, passport and DBS applications or counter-terrorism reports – could in theory be the main focus of the project.
The proposed contract is a two-year arrangement based at the Home Office in London, with an as yet unspecified budget. The winner of the bid will work in a mixed team led by the civil service.
To remedy this, the department needs “experts in content design, interaction design, user research, service design and accessibility”, all of which will work towards its user-centred design mission. It says its current approach risks “a shortfall of these essential skills”, which ultimately may lower quality standards.
Deadline 13 December
Those looking to apply for the two-year role will need to be able to demonstrate recent experience across several requirements.
These include: experience of designing services that meet both user needs and business objectives; experience considering and including participants who are digitally excluded or have access needs and experience of researching; and understanding user needs and designing services to support them.
Applications for the user-centred design partnership should be made via the gov.uk website. Consultancies and designers should be prepared to provide a written proposal which outlines how they would approach the task and why their organisation should be chosen.
The final judgement will be made with consideration of the following weightings: 60% for technical competence, 10% cultural fit and 30% price. Submissions for applications close on 13 December, with the work scheduled to begin on or before 10 February 2020.
At the time of writing a Home Office representative was unable to give more information on the opportunity, owing to restrictions in the run up to the general election next week.