The gov.uk team have released a new version of their home page. It’s now quite a long way from the simplicity of where they started – but kudos to them for respecting the discipline of user focused design.
But looking at the page, one small thing struck me (well, one thing other than the other thing which struck me). There’s an interesting list of links under the heading of “Most read on gov.uk”, and at the top of the list is “Job centre plus job match“. Fair enough and not surprising to find it there – job search has long been one of government’s most popular online services.
So it’s not the fact that it was there which gave me pause. It’s that it came under a heading about reading. At one level, of course, it’s trivially true that the primary action (still) for web pages is reading. Having found suitable job vacancies, you assimilate information about them by reading the words on the screen. Describing it that way, though, skates over the most important part of what has happened.
The jobsearch page is not fundamentally about reading, it is about doing. It rewards you for putting search terms in by providing search results back. It doesn’t reward you with anything much if you just lean back and read it. So while I am happy to believe that the job search page is the one which is most viewed, I don’t believe at all that it is the most read.
I also don’t think that’s how people think about it. “I read a job search” would be a much stranger thing to say than “I did a job search” (though admittedly “I searched for a job” is much more natural than either). Doing words are powerful: how we frame the doing matters.
That might be hair splitting of the highest order. But as I have argued before about gov.uk, words have power. GDS is taking huge leaps forward and are doing so with grace and panache. Part of what they are doing is breaking further away from a reading-based paradigm of web design. That paradigm is a strong one though, and its tentacles will keep trying to pull them back.
So I am looking forward to seeing a “Most done on gov.uk” list on their homepage. I hope it will be soon.