The rules we’re using to design our new website

As part of the ongoing work for the Beta website, we’ve developed a set of design principles.

But, what are they for and why do we need them?

What are they?

Design principles are a set of rules which will help us to deliver an easy to use, accurate and continually improving website. They should be simple and reflect the parliament’s commitment to putting the people of Scotland at the centre of what we do.

Why should we use them?

As a team, we want these principles to capture the different things we need to do to make our website the best it can be. We will stick to these principles as we work on the Beta project and hope to embed them within the organisation for future work.

Who else uses them?

Organisations, project teams and individuals use and develop their own design principles to best suit their own product or culture. Here are some examples from different organisations:

How did we create them?

Our design principles are adapted from the Government Digital Service Design Principles. The GDS principles outline 18 standards for all public sector websites to deliver good quality, modern and user centred digital services. We adapted our 10 principles based on the points that felt most relevant to our project and organisation.

As we continue through the delivery phase of the project and get into the detail of the top tasks, we will continually check the work we’re doing against the design principles. This will make sure we’re staying true to the user-centered approach.

The principles

Here are our 10 design principles for the Web & Online project:

1. Everything must have a proven user need

This user need must be taken from what we’ve learned in user research.

2. Design for full accessibility and across devices

Every design decision we make should help people with different disabilities and with the lowest levels of digital literacy.

3. Understand how people use our website using data and research

As part of our research, we will understand how people use our website by looking at analytics and watching our users in action and design with this in mind.

4. Test and improve each design

We will aim to test each design three times and ensure we’ve tested with the relevant users.

5. Learn and re-use

We will look at what’s been done and what standards are used by other projects and learn from their work

6. Keep it simple for our users

We will work hard so that users will find our website easy and quick to use.

7. Consistent design

We will use the same language and design patterns where possible and keep a consistent style when this isn’t possible

8. Work ahead of the development team – but keep talking

This means we can present them with designs that have been tested and improved several times. We will keep talking to the development team so that we know what we’re designing is possible.

9. Share our successes - discuss our failures

We will share our successes and failures with the wider team so that we can all learn from them.

10. Try to bring the business along with us

We will bring parliament staff into as much of our research and design work as possible. This will mean we are helping them understand user centered design and why we’re using this approach.

For more information on the principles or the project, please get in touch with the team on