Delivering the Small Business Commissioner service

Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy

A person looking at a dashboard on a laptop

We found that many small businesses didn’t know where to go for help or who to contact

Small and medium-sized businesses in the UK were waiting for a shocking £26.3 billion in overdue payments. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) asked us to work with them to translate legislation into a service that helps SMEs get paid more quickly


Together with BEIS, we delivered a digital service for the Small Business Commissioner (SBC) to help small businesses across the UK. 

Working with dxw was a pleasure. As a small business themselves they had a clear understanding of the audience we needed to reach with the product, and they were able to mobilise their networks very quickly so that no time was wasted in the early days of the project. Their knowledge of government digital standards and principles was impressive, and hugely helpful when we needed to make content and design decisions. As the head of the policy team, I felt like an integral part of the delivery effort, and dxw colleagues were great at planning and working around my availability.

The product was delivered on time and under budget. This meant we could launch the website at the same time as the new non-departmental public body that it was designed to support – the Small Business Commissioner. We were delighted to get a positive comment in the House of Lords just a month after going live which described the service during a debate as ‘an excellent website, full of advice for businesses struggling with payments’. This was high praise and fantastic recognition for a job well done.

Hannah Robins-Frank, SME Growth Team, Business Growth Directorate, BEIS

What we did

The team

We put together a single multidisciplinary team of experts from dxw and BEIS – with policy, design, research, content and product people all working closely together.  We also drew on the expertise of lawyers, subject matter leads and industry bodies, to inform our user research and content design.

Understanding users’ needs

In discovery, we found that many small businesses didn’t know where to go for help or who to contact when they hadn’t been paid on time. There are many organisations that provide advice and services in this area, but they’re difficult to navigate. Most users thought their only options were either writing off debt or taking their client to court.

During our user research throughout discovery and alpha, we also looked to understand users’ understanding and expectations of the SBC, which offers a complaints service.

From alpha to beta to live

We wanted to give small businesses trusted, actionable advice that helps them understand all their available options.

Over a 10 week alpha, we built and iterated several prototypes for the SBC website. We continuously improved the design and content by carrying out regular research and testing with small businesses from a range of industries across the UK.

We structured the content in a way that made sense to users and reflected their business processes. By working closely with subject matter experts on the content, we were also able to rationalise and reduce the number of options presented, so users felt less overwhelmed.

In beta, we started building a working version of the website in WordPress. Over a period of 8 weeks, we kept iterating and testing with users to fine-tune the content and design until it was ready to go live.

What’s happening now

It’s great to see the work of the SBC continuing to make sure smaller businesses get paid more quickly. In January 2019, the SBC’s office announced that a ‘traffic light’ system will be introduced that names late-paying businesses.