Supporting material through

This is a post by Calum Shepherd, our Head of Digital Strategy.

We’re excited to mark the availability of, which went live last week. It’s our first step towards putting live resources for better digital services.

The new resources area has two main aims:

  • to help you deliver clear content when publishing on
  • to help you, as a service provider, in building future transactional services that will appear on


What resources are available?

It’s providing a home just now to the service standard for transactional services, which is an expanded version of the Digital by Default Service Standard. It’s unfinished and we are missing some pretty fundamental criteria like user needs – but it’s a first run.

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This is a post by Peter Smith, Product Owner for alpha and beta

From today you can see the beta version of This marks the start of a phase in which we will continually add content and features to the site, making use of the tools and processes we have been developing since the release of alpha. Care Information Scotland (CIS) and the Scottish Business Portal are amongst the first to work with us on content and we would like to thank them for working alongside the team on this early beta release.



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Five principles for generating usable user research

This is a post by Cat Macaulay, our User Research Lead and is part of our series on Standards & Guidelines

Building a user research practice into a large and complex project like is a pretty daunting task. So as we start out on this journey, we wanted to try and give ourselves some principles to guide us along the way. They are there to keep us focussed on the idea that, just as user research is meant to help create usable products and services, user research itself actually needs to be usable (or actionable) as well.

1. Research with project teams, not for them

It is easy to make huge assumptions about the people who will use our products and services, because it is hard to walk in someone else’s shoes. This is what user researchers are trained to be sensitive to and what user research methods are designed to deal with.

But it is equally easy for user researchers to assume they know the kinds of research that project teams need to move their work forward. It’s only by working side by side with the rest of the project team that we can be sure we are addressing relevant user research needs. As the user research team at GDS says – user research is a team sport.

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Dipping into design – composition fundamentals

Design elements describe basic ideas around the practice of good visual design. These elements include colour, shape, texture and space. I’m going to dip into an aspect of this, exploring some fundamentals of composition, as this helps set the scene for the work we will be doing / have done so far.

We started with composition and typography – our fundamentals

As a design challenge, is not that complicated in comparison to some of the more complex web projects out there. The creative angle of this ever growing website is limited, as research so far has told us simplicity is a good thing for users. Initial thoughts point to things like photography and graphics causing more harm than good, most notably if we consider the speed at which they become outdated.

At the same time, because it is so simple, it is also actually very complicated – as you spend more time on more granular aspects. Our approach will likely require an element of math to be involved the closer we look. It’s not always the most obvious option that’s the best option for us to take. We can’t put a full screen photo of a little kitten to soften the user up, even though it might have the desired effect. We need to seek out fundamental rules around composition and typography, helping us to design content that feels natural and seamless.

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Security within agile environments

This is a post by Neil Campbell, our Information Security Officer and is part of our series on Standards & Guidelines

Security within agile environments can be challenging. There’s a need to juggle a large number of competing factors including velocity, compliance requirements, ambitions around user experience and adherence to standards – all while maintaining the flexibility required to deliver a great product for our users.

We thought about best practice in relation to security, and for risk, balancing these so we had something we could work with. Risk in the programme is being used to balance complex and at times competing factors, allowing us to have a well rounded response.

As part of our risk management we are looking to ensure that the landscape people make decisions in is current. Security decisions should be reviewed, ensuring the service remains appropriately secure.

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Architectural concepts: a quality attributes overview

This is a post by Graham Beedie, our Technical Architect and is part of our series on Standards & Guidelines

We know designing and building high quality software is tough. The ability to define and measure the quality of delivered software is a desired, but all too often unmet ambition. In order to fully explain what we mean by quality, we should start at first principles.

What is architecture?

When we seek to describe a set of components to define a system, we are creating its architecture.

When we refer to the architecture of a system, we are talking about core properties that are realised by its elements, relationships and the principles that underpin its design and evolution. When talking about a system, we are referring to a collection of software and hardware elements that are defined in order to realise requirements.

Dynamic and runtime structures

Two types of structure make up the elements that comprise a system and its relationships.

  • The static structures of a system are concerned with the internal design time elements and how they are structured. For example this can be packages or executable code, compiled classes or stored procedures within a database.
  • The dynamic structures of a system are concerned with the runtime elements and their interactions. For example, this may include messages sent between architecturally significant components, network requests or API calls.

These are both interrelated. In some cases, the static structures will be a predicate to the dynamic structures.

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Consistent content style, saying goodbye to jargon

This is a post by Rachel Caldwell, our Content Designer (NHS 24) and is part of our series on Standards & Guidelines

Have you ever gone to a website looking for answers, started reading what’s there, and quickly felt like you need a translator to make sense of all the jargon?

It’s a common complaint. And with movements such as the Plain English Campaign attempting to change the way we create content for the better, it’s our responsibility to help.

We want to turn complex information into content that’s easily understood by our audience. We believe information should be provided in the clearest and most accessible way possible, which is why we have ‘content designers’ rather than ‘content writers’ in our teams.

Introducing guidance for content designers, in the form of a content style guide, is a great way of promoting best practice, and bringing consistency across Scottish online public services when publishing on

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