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GOV.UK Verify

Improving the experience of verifying with certified companies

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Research

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We recently completed the process of connecting certified companies to GOV.UK Verify under the new framework for certified companiesAs a user researcher, my main focus in this process was how we ensure that these companies provide services that meet the needs of our users.

This presented some interesting challenges for us:

  • How do we ensure quality, whilst still encouraging innovation and differentiation?
  • How do we apply the principles of user centred design to a contractual framework for ensuring quality?

Ensuring quality and encouraging innovation

Identity providers are independent companies. We can’t - and don’t want to - tell them how to design their products. Instead, we set standards for the quality of the experience they offer our users.

Before each company connected to GOV.UK Verify as a certified company, they had to show that they had met these standards.

Contractually enforcing the quality of user experience in this way is new to government, so we had to build a framework to do this from scratch. Our goal was to make sure that each certified company was:

  • learning from the depth and breadth of research and design expertise within GOV.UK Verify and GDS
  • developing designs based on user research
  • building accessible products
  • building products that our users would be able to use

A framework for improvement

Before they connected, all of the certified companies went through a series of contractual checks we called ‘gates’. Each of these examined what they were doing at an increasing level of detail. The gates were:

Provision of a usability testing strategy: First, each company had to show that their development followed a user centred approach, informed by research with a representative sample of users.

Prototype user journey review: Mock-ups of each company’s verification process was then checked by the Verify team, to make sure that it followed published design patterns, or where they deviated from these, that the identity provider could produce evidence that it was not problematic for users.

Attendance at GDS usability testing sessions: Finally, each provider attended a round of usability testing where real users of the service used the product. This testing was conducted by the GOV.UK Verify team, to make sure it was both consistent and independent.

Response to issues: Before they were able to go live, each provider had to resolve every single issue that had been identified as they went through the gating process.

What did we achieve?

It’s been hard work, but we’re really happy with what we’ve achieved. All of the certified companies have made significant improvements to their products and some have also altered their development processes in response to what they’ve learnt.

What we’ve learnt doing this is that government can, and should, write contracts that require providers to meet a threshold for usability, and that doing so is a powerful tool to drive improvements for the people that use those products.

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  1. Comment by MarkK posted on

    Verizon has disappeared, other than as a Barclays' delivery partner, but the standard response since 'go live' to those who tick all the boxes has been that four of the remaining seven providers "are unlikely to be able to verify you". This is consistent with the performance statistics, but has this really met the threshold for usability?

    • Replies to MarkK>

      Comment by Rebecca Hales posted on

      Hi Mark

      We're working to enhance the certified company picker to ensure the user only sees companies most likely to verify them based on the information they have to hand. Displaying certified companies in this way is more helpful for users and means that visits are more likely result in the creation or reuse of a verified account.

      • Replies to Rebecca Hales>

        Comment by Bala posted on

        Thanks Rebecca.

        Irrespective of what answers I provide in the picker, I don't see for example Barclays. I always see other 3 or 4.

        Is there a table of information to show how these 3 or 4 are chosen out of 7 ? At times it makes me feel like these 3 or 4 have an commercial edge over rest for some reasons - How can you provide transparency on this please ?

        • Replies to Bala>

          Comment by Rebecca Hales posted on

          Hi Bala

          Sorry, we don't have a table of information that will show those details.

          As part of the GOV.UK Verify journey you are asked a number of pre-qualifying questions that determine which of the certified companies are most likely to verify you based on the evidence you have to hand. We are constantly looking to improve the way that users are shown certified companies on the service, based on their answers. We recently made changes to ensure you are better informed when deciding which of the companies you would like to proceed with as part of our ongoing improvements to GOV.UK Verify based on testing and user feedback. We'll continue to iterate how the companies are displayed to improve this for users as we learn more, and the companies change and improve their services.

          It's worth noting that you're not prevented from overriding the recommendations of the picker. At the bottom of the list you can click the drop down menu, select any of the certified companies that may be less likely to verify you and attempt the process with them, if you would prefer.