Building a finder on GOV.UK

Back in April we started working with the Department for International Development (DFID) to help them transition one of their legacy websites on to GOV.UK as a finder. Finders are a filtered search, which departments and agencies use for custom filtering on specialist content. In DFID’s case, they are required to publish outputs from every research project and programme they fund.

As with any new project, we started with a short discovery phase to understand user’s needs and pain points with the existing service. The users of the old Research for Development (R4D) site experienced difficulties in finding the output they where they were looking for. The outputs varied from detailed reports to case studies, on a range of topics from health governance in Sub-Saharan Africa to maize consumption patterns in Zambia. We also had a look at the rich data set available to us and developed a migration plan for how we would import over 33,000 documents onto the GOV.UK platform.

After a series of development sprints we launched the new finder for DFID research outputs in August. It was not without its challenges.

While our developers were mostly co-located with the GOV.UK team, we had to work closely with DFID and GDS stakeholders to overcome technical issues and policy hurdles. An example of this was the need to balance the restrictions imposed from the data we had from R4D with GOV.UK standards for content design. We also had to complete the work while GDS were in the middle of rebuilding Specialist Publisher, the application used for creating finders for specialist documents. The hard work paid off, and we demonstrated how external suppliers can work with civil service teams and build services on the GOV.UK platform. We delivered a simpler service which not only meets user needs but will also result in cost savings and help improve the way DFID manage their programmes.

Going forward we’ll be working with DFID to conduct some usability testing following the launch and understand what improvements we could make to iterate the finder further.