Since 2010

GOV.UK Design System

This blog post from the GOV.UK Design System team has been doing the rounds this week. I’ve been aware of this department of the UK government for a while, but having read through some of their well researched and reasoned recommendations I must say I’m a big fan of their work.

The industry I work in - Australian education - sorely needs to wake up to a lot of this. Unfortunately education providers are required to collect a lot of questionable data for statutory reporting purposes, and often in a very rigid format. It’s a system which was designed about 30 years ago by people who had no idea that not everyone has a name, and not every address has 4 lines and a postcode, to name but a couple of my irritations.

Here are a couple of my favourites from the GOV.UK Design System team.

Gender or sex:

You should only ask users about gender or sex if you genuinely cannot provide your service without this information.

Compare this with the latest requirements from the Australian Government, which doesn’t even provide “declined to answer” or “we don’t ask our students for this data” option.


Overly strict or confusing constraints can make it harder for people to create memorable passwords.


You should only force a password change if you suspect an account may be compromised.


Use single or multiple fields depending on your user’s needs. Not everyone’s name fits the first-name, last-name format. Using multiple name fields mean there’s more risk that a person’s name will not fit the format you’ve chosen and that it is entered incorrectly.

You’d think this would all be common sense, no?