After the flood GDS Performance Platform

GDS Performance Platform

“How can we show the efficiency and reach of our products to a broad audience?”


Government Digital Service

The Problem

GDS wanted to show how its new services were working to internal and external audiences

Our Solution

User research throughout government lead to prototypes of the Performance Platform


There are now more than 700 service dashboards across GOV.UK

“How can we show the efficiency and reach of our products to a broad audience?”

The award winning GOV.UK generates massive site data that needs to be communicated to those who manage short and long term decisions. After the Flood developed a service prototype that showed GOV.UK usage data across services such as tax, benefit applications and employment services. The platform is an example for other government departments of the potential of data-informed decision-making.

The Brief

We were asked to create a tool for many levels of the department so that users could get the data they needed to make their decisions. These levels were from very senior (MPs, Permanent Secretaries) through the middle management of departments and the people on the ground, managing the services. The demo and V1 specification would then be used to show other government departments the potential of data display tools.

The first half of the project was a demo with prototyped screens and working code to show what was possible to the department. It involved a lot of Playbook methods – especially in the understanding of the audiences and context of use of the product. To begin, we carried out many depth interviews to uncover who the users of the finished system would be and what they would need.

Examining relationships

The corporate cartography exercise showed us where the most important relationships were. This also allowed us to show others where there were important networks – like the advisors near the permanent secretaries.

Data Prototyping

We have a wide network of collaborators and it was great to work with Matt Biddulph. (Matt now runs Thington.) Matt very quickly got a sense of the grain of the data and started to both discover new ways to show data and also ways of making new data. For ‘spike alerts’ he made a script that automatically creates an alert when a certain amount beyond the standard deviation is reached. Our tempo of investigation and design synched well and within two weeks we had a great demo.

We were situated in the GDS office for the project which allowed people to drop by and see what we were doing. This allowed us to both understand a lot of the business of GDS as well as sell our ideas to stakeholders of all levels. Our client, Richard Sargeant, is passionate about data informed decisions so we always had a steer from him on what was useful to his department. His analysts were really open in describing their work and also helpful in testing the integrity of what we were proposing.

We developed a diverse set of modules that answered the specific needs of GDS.

An important set of charts were the department KPIs. We used colour to only show where there was something worth looking at (very good/very bad). The alerts we created would also draw attention to what was most important. 

Key to our designs was the ability to connect analysts to the users. Also we wanted to provide details of the ‘data provenance’.

Popular Metaphors

We decided to turn numeric data into ‘smart syntax’ as the UK government is a text-dominated culture. This was a pre-defined sentence which had changing variables, dictated by the data updates. Underneath this automatically generated headline would be an overview chart, showing the big picture for each departmental area.

All the pages we created used the same template. They had the headline and overview chart at the top. Ministers could swipe across for the headlines for each area. KPIs were across the middle in a consistent place. Underneath the KPIs were modules that were relevant to specific areas.


We left the design and engineering team with a record of our work in the specifications. We always expect these to built on by our partners but they are a good instruction for phase one and a good record of the intention and distinction of the product.

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