Don’t be afraid to undo previous work, argues designer

GOV.UK website retools and removes icon to better its design

People within the design industry “mustn’t be afraid to undo previous work" because that’s sometimes an “essential part of the design process”, according to designer Guy Moorhouse.

Writing in a blog post for the Government Digital Service, Moorhouse explained how icons that appeared at the left-hand side of GOV.UK pages had now been removed. The icons had originally been added as a kind of navigation aid as well as a way of indicating to users what type of page they were on and the experience they could expect.

GOV.UK, which uses an agile process, has evolved heavily since the beta was unveiled. Moorhouse explained that the icons didn't come from user data, but from what felt right. Since then, usability problems had become evident, not least with users clicking on the icons and expecting something to happen. More to the point, he said there was “no direct evidence they make pages (and how they are used) more memorable”.

Therefore, the website had a minor revamp, rolling in further lessons learned during user testing. The new visual design is cleaner and clearer with bolder typography and an improvement over what was already an impressive design.

The key lesson, according to Moorhouse, is that designers “cannot be precious”. If something’s not working, change it or get rid of it, rather than holding on for dear life.