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Gov.uk named THE BEST THING Britain has made all year

Website beats Raspberry Pi, The Shard, Olympics et al

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It's a website with all the visual flair you would expect from something designed by "cool" Whitehall bureaucrats.

But even though it's something of a plain Jane, the government portal gov.uk has been named Design of the Year 2013 by the Design Museum in London. A suitable gong was handed to the website's team at a ceremony last night.

The portal - which brings car tax payments, passport renewals and other public services under one online roof - was selected as the best design from seven competing categories.

It saw off last year's dazzling Olympic opening ceremony's cauldron of fire and London's 1,016-ft skyscraper The Shard - neither of which won their respective categories. Ever-popular wallet-sized Brit PC the Raspberry Pi was also nominated but failed to receive a gong.

Gov.uk launched last year to replace DirectGov, a similar service, and was an ambitious attempt to unify more than 200 different government websites. Using the new portal, British citizens can get advice on joining the dole queue, starting a business, getting compensation and such things.

All 24 government departments will be on the site by the end of this month, although the NHS and local councils will be left with their own non-award-winning efforts. Switching government services online, part of Blighty's so-called "digital by default" policy, will be a blow to the 7 million Brits who are not on the internet.

Design Museum director Deyan Sudjic described gov.uk as the "Paul Smith" of websites [who he? - sub-ed].

Sudjic said: "It’s a reflection of the government's understanding of how to communicate with the country in a way that works. It’s simple, direct, well mannered - all the things that we would like to take for granted from the government, but in a sea of red tape and jargon, usually can’t.

"Gov.uk looks elegant, and subtly British thanks to a revised version of a classic typeface, designed by Margaret Calvert back in the 1960s. The rest of the world is deeply impressed, and because it has rationalised multiple official websites, it saves the taxpayer millions, what’s not to like?"

Fans of the site hailed the Government Digital Service, the team behind gov.uk, as the "coolest bunch of civil servants you are ever likely to meet". In a blog post, Mat Hunter of the UK Design Council added: "The design deemed best in show is something that many had given up all hope of reinventing: the UK government’s approach to information technology.

"How many billions of pounds have been wasted in the government’s procurement of unusable IT systems? You really don’t want to know. So the fact that a team has finally found the formula of success, a formula that is better, faster and cheaper than most private sector companies’ efforts, is something to be shouted from the rooftops."

Ben Terrett, head of design for the Government Digital Service, hoped the British example of good web design would be copied around the world, adding: "It was described to me as common sense at scale. The potential is massive."

Prime Minister David Cameron was also very excited that the website won an award. On the official Downing Street Twitter account, @number10gov, he took a break from playing Fruit Ninja to note: "I am delighted."

Designs that missed out include the LiquiGlide Ketchup Bottle, which aids the passage of tomato sauce from bottle to plate. ®

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