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Marriage Allowance - Alpha Assessment

The Marriage Allowance service will allow a customer with unused personal allowances to transfer a set amount (£1060 in 2015/16) to their spouse or civil partner, to reduce the couples overall tax bill.

Department / Agency:
HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC)

Date of Assessment:
20 March 2015

Assessment stage:
Alpha Review

Result of Assessment:

Lead Assessor:
H. Garrett

Service Manager:
M. Etherington

Digital Leader:
M. Dearnley

Assessment Report

The Marriage Allowance service has been reviewed against the 26 points of the Service Standard at the end of the Alpha development.

Outcome of service assessment

After consideration we have concluded the Marriage Allowance service is on track to meet the Digital by Default Service Standard at this early stage of development.


There is a strong multidisciplinary team in place who have been working in an agile way to iterate the alpha prototype based on research. The team spoke knowledgeably about the digital service and explained the changes made to the transaction based on research, for example content changes to make it clearer which details users needed to enter and the information users would need at the start of the transaction.

The team have the appropriate safety and security measures in place and are able to iterate the transaction on a very frequent basis. They have plans in place to quickly iterate the digital service during private beta based on data and feedback about how users are using the service.

The service team explained their plan to invite users to complete the transaction during the private beta phase from the current database of almost 200,000 users who have registered their interest. The service team should not invite more than 200,000 users to complete the private beta service.  Once they reach the 200,000 invites threshold the service must pass a beta assessment, which will ensure that all users can access the service directly from GOV.UK.


Point 9: Create a service that is simple and intuitive enough that users succeed first time, unaided

Whilst the team have completed research and usability testing on the individual elements of the service which they have developed, they haven't fully tested the transaction end-to-end. The assessment panel recognise that this is the first digital service that has integrated with verify at such an early stage, and as such verify doesn't currently have their prototyping solution for alpha research documented in a way that teams can find and use it easily.

The assessment panel suggest that the service team collaborate with the verify team on ongoing needs for research and prototyping resources and expect the team to research the full end-to-end journey before private beta launch, so that they can make any changes needed based on this research and are confident that the service is simple and intuitive enough that users succeed first time, unaided.

The assessment panel had some concerns about the service having an optional calculator section contained within the transaction. The GDS pattern is for calculators to exist as self-contained features on GOV.UK, which reduces confusion and complexity within the transaction. However, the timeframes involved mean that creating a standalone marriage allowance calculator on GOV.UK before the launch of the private beta wouldn’t be possible, so as discussed during the assessment, we have some interim design recommendations for the calculator that we'll send through in a separate document. The assessment panel strongly recommend that the team test these designs with users before inviting users to access the private beta service.

Point 10: Put appropriate assisted digital (AD) support in place that’s aimed towards those who genuinely need it

The team had accessed HMRC-commissioned research (including some specifically about the Marriage Allowance digital service). This is a great starting point, but the team should avoid making assumptions about users’ AD support needs, and carry out specific research. This must be with users of the service. The team are already working with third parties to test the digital service and this could potentially extend this to include this AD research. The team will need to consider the sustainability of support that users get from third party suppliers for later service development phases.

The team are planning on inviting users who registered their interest online to access the private beta, but weren’t planning to include users with the lowest levels of digital skills and access. They had thought about potential telephony channel support for users with sufficient skills and access to already be trying to use the digital service. The team must also plan to specifically test, measure and iterate the AD support required across all channels (including face to face), for users not already online.

Point 1:  Understand user needs. Research to develop a deep knowledge of who the service users are and what that means for digital and assisted digital service design.

Whilst user research has been carried out during alpha, including engaging with third parties Age UK and Tax Help for Older People, the research plan for private beta does not guarantee that insights are captured from a sample representative of all potential users of the service. The team should put in place a plan for involving more people in user research than just those who have signed up using the marriage allowance registration service.

In particular, effort should be made to ensure people of State Pension age are involved in research during private beta, as it is estimated that a third of users eligible for marriage allowance will be also be eligible for State Pension.

Digital by Default Service Standard criteria

Criteria Passed Criteria Passed
1 Yes 2 Yes
3 Yes 4 Yes
5 Yes 6 Yes
7 Yes 8 Yes
9 No 10 No
11 Yes 12 Yes
13 Yes 14 Yes
15 Yes 16 Yes
17 Yes 18 Yes
19 Yes 20 Yes
21 Yes 22 Yes
23 Yes 24 Yes
25 Yes 26 Yes