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Legalisation Service - Service Assessment

Legalisation is the official confirmation that a signature, seal or stamp on an official UK public document is genuine. Confirmation is given by attaching a certificate (called an apostille) to the original document. Foreign authorities often ask that documents are legalised before they can be used for official purposes in their country.

Department / Agency:

Date of Assessment:

Assessment Stage:

Result of Assessment:

Lead Assessor:
J. Thornett

Service Manager:
A. Hamilton

Digital Leader:
A. Daniels

Assessment Report

Outcome of service assessment

After consideration, the assessment panel have concluded that the Legalisations Service is on track to meet the Digital Service Standard at this early stage of development.


The service team provided strong, thorough evidence that they are taking an agile, iterative, approach to the design of the service. In particular the panel were impressed with the use of a prototype at the alpha stage to learn about user behaviour and to iterate some of the more complex design aspects of the service.

The service manager is very well engaged with the development team and is able to ensure that internal and external stakeholders are being kept up to date with progress.

The technology choices are embracing open source and all code is being made available in the open via Github. The panel appreciated the documentation provided ahead of the assessment via an open wiki - not only was this beneficial for the assessment but provided further evidence of the team’s commitment to building their service in the open.

The team are missing several important skill sets - notably user research, design and content design. The team acknowledged these gaps and have made efforts to fill these areas from within, or by borrowing time from people in GDS. However, these are necessary skill sets for the design and development of a successful digital service and we believe the team will need to find a better solution as the development moves into beta.

Despite having little insight into assisted digital user needs, the service are making a start on mapping out potential support user journeys. They are considering a telephone service to support users and ways around inputting an email address, which is currently mandatory. They are also looking into how they could extend the scope of their current call centre capacity to include potentially longer hours, and further options such as web chat.

Without completing this user research, the service are unable to identify user needs and therefore cannot say whether or not any proposed support will meet those needs. The team are aware that they must have more insight into assisted digital user needs in order to have confidence in their proposed options. They should contact the GDS assisted digital team for support in this area.


Understanding user needs

Overall the panel were impressed with the level of research that had been conducted in such a short time, with limited resource.

The team has appointed IFF Research to conduct some of the exploratory research, and although the results have proved useful (in particular the development of personas), it would be helpful in the future to have less reliance on external research companies, and put the budget towards a dedicated user researcher within the team. There is also a danger of being over reliant on remote research through WhatUsersDo, however we are aware that the team is supplementing this through additional face-to-face research.

The team has not been successful in conducting any user research with assisted digital users in this early stage. We appreciate that finding assisted digital users who are needing documents to be legalised is difficult but without this insight at an early stage it will be very difficult for the team to ensure that the service is accessible to all types of users.

  • The service must put in place a robust plan to identify assisted digital user groups, and be proactive in reaching these users, rather than relying on users to contact the service through existing routes.
  • Additionally, when the service extends to cover businesses, the team should work with the GDS assisted digital team, who can support with ongoing work around assisted digital for businesses and links to other services and departments.
  • The team must conduct research with users with the lowest level of digital skills to understand their barriers to using the service, and their support needs for this service.
  • The team must be proactive in reaching assisted digital users, going out and conducting research face-to-face, rather than relying on those users who contact the service currently.
  • The team should contact GDS for support on assisted digital for individuals and businesses.


The service has some complex interactions, particularly relating to document checking. Whilst the team had made good efforts to iterate and explore these areas, including attending GDS workshops, the panel believes that having a designer work on the service would greatly improve the outcome and reduce complexity.

We acknowledge that the team has constraints on budget, but strongly recommend that a designer work on the service going forward, for a minimum of 3 days a week.

Whilst the team had rightly focused attention on the document checking portion of the service, the panel recommends that other areas also be considered and complexity reduced wherever possible - such as asking for repeated information or to reconfirm number of documents being requested.

Technical architecture

The technical architecture of the service is well thought through and follows principles of modularity. It also satisfies a common approach to support iterative development and continuous delivery.

There are monitoring tools and technologies in place. However, extensive use of containers would require additional attention to monitor health and state of containers and their hosts.

The team is planning to use PostgreSQL database as a shared resource for all services. This decision will make an impact on technical design. As the team is planning to keep these decision under review it would be useful to have a further dialogue on the technology approach when moving into beta development.


Overall the team are making good progress at this stage of development, demonstrating a good understanding of the principles of agile, iterative service design and development. The team appear to be working well together and the panel look forward to seeing the progress they will make as they start building the beta service.

Digital Service Standard criteria

Criteria Passed Criteria Passed
1 No 2 No
3 No 4 Yes
5 Yes 6 Yes
7 Yes 8 Yes
9 Yes 10 Yes
11 Yes 12 Yes
13 Yes 14 Yes
15 Yes 16 Yes
17 Yes 18 Yes