Queen's Awards for Enterprise

Streamlining the application process for the UK’s most prestigious business awards

Bit Zesty has smart people who get up to speed very quickly. They have really listened effectively to what we do and brought forward exciting and innovative design proposals for our online service. They have helped me and my team think of things in a different way. An impressive, professional team who are really easy to work with.

Linda Stephens, The Secretary to the Queen's Award for Enterprise

Challenge

The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy wanted to improve the online application process for Queen's Awards for Enterprise.

Solution

Through in-depth research, we rebuilt the service. The improvements met stringent government standards and made it easier for thousands of organisations to apply for the awards.

Services

  • Agile Project Management
  • User Experience Research
  • User Experience Design
  • Ruby on Rails Application Development
  • Support

Project Overview

Background

The Queen's Awards for Enterprise (QAE) recognises outstanding achievement by UK organisations in international trade, innovation or sustainable development. They are the highest official UK awards for British organisations and attract thousands of applications each year.

We were approached by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to overhaul the QAE’s online application process and ensure that the service complied with the UK Government’s Digital by Default Service Standard.

Rebuilding a service to put user needs first

We built a new digital application service for the QAE, making the application process easier to understand and more straightforward to complete. Although the old application system provided a natural starting point for the project, we went back to the foundation of the service - its users - to ensure the rebuild was informed by their needs first and foremost.

The new service scores extremely highly in usability testing, and became a best practice example for the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy. Since launching the new service, the quality of applications has increased and there are fewer enquiries to the QAE helpline.

Human-centered approach

We began the project with a thorough Discovery - in other words a user research phase. We ran workshops and conducted in-depth interviews with different groups of QAE users, including previous applicants, award assessors, and administrators. We also analysed previous surveys that the QAE team had done with the applicants. Our research gave us insight into how the service was being used and how it could be improved.

Our human-centered approach continued in the development phase. Over the course of the project we held six rounds of usability testing, which allowed us to regularly validate our work and incorporate user feedback into our design iterations.

The user research and testing led to some significant insights. For example, we discovered that when considering to apply for an award the users were often uncertain about the eligibility criteria. We therefore introduced eligibility checkers which improved user understanding and guided people to the award(s) they were eligible to apply for.

Content design: prioritising understanding and ease of use

As the QAE application process is very content-oriented, our UX and Content Designers worked closely together. Our Content Designer sat in on user research and testing sessions, in order to understand users’ experiences and get first-hand feedback.

A lot of the help content for the service had previously been spread across multiple websites and documents. We brought this all together, integrating it into the service so that users can find everything they need in one place.

Our team rewrote and redesigned content across the entire application process, following the Government Digital Service style guide. We improved the clarity of the question copy and made changes in content design, such as grouping questions by theme, improving instructional help text and moving it inline with the relevant questions.

We also wrote the content for direct communications with users, such as error messages, notifications and emails. This type of content is a dialogue between the service and the user and has a significant impact on the applicant’s relationship with the Queen’s Awards for Enterprise service.

Government-standard security: keeping user data safe

The Queen’s Awards web service requires applicants to upload files, but allowing users to upload files to a government database posed a potential security issue.

Our solution was the creation of Vigilion, a standalone virus and malware scanning api, that protects users of the service by scanning files for malware, which can be procured via the Government Digital Marketplace.

Also, a full security audit was run by a third party to ensure that the application and hosting were secure and that we were following industry best practises with regards to securing user data.

Successful agile delivery

Like Bit Zesty, the Government Digital Service advocates a lean, agile approach to delivery. We managed the QAE project in line with these practices, which successfully minimised risk during the design and development of the new service.

We followed the design phases of the Government Service Design Manual, and supported the QAE team through their Digital by Default service assessment - a stringent evaluation process which all government digital services must pass.

We collaborated closely with the QAE team throughout the project, with regular iteration meetings and catch-ups. Working closely together to prioritise tasks and features enabled us to successfully deliver the service in good time for the launch of QAE’s new application round.