Content Strategy, Content Design
March 2012 – August 2013
Department for Work and Pensions
Content Stategy, Content Design
March 2012 – August 2013
Universal Credit is the UK government’s hugely ambitious £12 billion flagship digital transformation project for social security. It combines paper application forms for 6 key benefits and tax credits in a single, streamlined online application process.
The challenge was to simplify the process within complex policy and legal requirements. Evidence flagged high anxiety and mistrust among existing social security applicants. The brief also specified that the new Universal Credit service should be ‘digital by default’, without a need for helplines and appointments at job centres.
Given the complexity of the project, Universal Credit has so far taken almost a decade to develop.
Working closely with a team of up to 40 policy and legal experts and other key stakeholders, we scrutinised every single aspect of the data requirements. In practice, that often meant debating a single question over the course of 8 hours.
We advised on tone of voice, content strategy and unambiguous phrasing of questions and help text. We proactively participated in extensive user research to test assumptions and gather evidence for content design. We developed content that turned complex policies into language that was easy to understand, including for people with learning difficulties and those who don’t have English as their first language.
We challenged existing government design guidelines where they felt inadequate for online application services. We defined a tone of voice that was responsive to applicants’ anxieties and mistrust of government services: friendly and supportive yet authoritative.
We were responsible for all online content during the first stage of Universal Credit’s development. We also contributed to and peer-reviewed across all other channels, including text messages, emails, correspondence and call centre scripts. We developed style guides and training materials to ensure consistency across the department.
We pioneered government design guidelines for online transactional content. We helped to simplify and streamline existing processes into a single, user-centred end-to-end user journey. For example, for Housing Benefits we helped to reduce the number of questions asked by 70%.
The new system used plain English and contained relevant examples and help text, where required. We designed it to empower applicants to get through the process without having to ask for assistance.
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