GOV.UK - Deserved winners?

The GDS (Government Design Service) were greeted with some pretty exciting news yesterday, not only had they won the 'Designs of the Year 2013' award for their category, digital, but they also won the overall design award. For the GOV.UK website. Yes, a government website won a design award. The award, which was chosen from 98 entries, was presented at an awards ceremony in South London on Tuesday. They beat other nominees such as The Shard and the Olympic Cauldron. What was surprising is that it was not a stunning design (it was good, but I don't quite agree that it was "the Paul Smith of websites"). In fact if I were to be critical, it's not very engaging. With the questionable quality of the search function  you often find yourself navigating through numerous lists, click by click, to arrive at your destination. You can go through a number of different pages without even coming across an image. So, in my opinion it has not done anything particularly revolutionary on the design front, something which pretty much all of our office agrees upon. How did they win the 'designs of  the year' award without having a stunning design? This is where we get excited. The GDS followed an agile, user centered design process (as they have publicised on their blog). Their website is primarily focused on providing actual users with the best possible experience, to use their tagline "user needs not government needs". One of our consultants commented that it's not what the design looks like but what it has accomplished that is so impressive. A sentiment I agree with. From our point of view, this is why they won. To carry out a successful user centered design project of this scale, for a public facing website, is revolutionary. This is great for user experience design. We know UX is a growing market but this has really highlighted what user centered design can achieve. Bravo, GDS. What would you have voted for as your design of the year? Does the GOV.UK website deserve to have won?  

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