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Visit Visa (China) - Service Assessment

An online service for people in China applying for a Child, Business or General Visit Visa to come to the UK. It replaces an existing service that is no longer suitable.

Department / Agency:

Date of Assessment:

Assessment stage:

Result of Assessment:

Lead Assessor:
H. Garrett

Service Manager:
M. Bogunovic

Digital Leader:
M. Parsons

Assessment Report

Outcome of service assessment
After completing the assessment the panel can confirm the Visit Visa (China) service has shown sufficient evidence of meeting the Digital by Default Service Standard and should go Live as a Digital by Default service on GOV.UK. The service can remove any Beta branding when it has completed the move to the domain.

The service was assessed against and has met all 26 points of the Digital by Default Service Standard for the scope of the current service, Visit Visa (China).

The service team have built a service based on user needs, that has been (and can continue to be) iteratively improved and has the appropriate safety and security measures in place.

The team explained how they have improved the service based on research and feedback, completing 7 days of research in China, two further rounds of remote research and analysis of 800 pieces of feedback.
Clear examples of iterative improvements made based on research were given, examples include removing a confusing mandatory free text section that repeated the previous question and cutting a large amount of content from the declaration down to 70 words, which demonstrated how the service team worked with policy colleagues to make sure they included only absolutely necessary content.

The survey feedback received during beta also indicated that users were finding that the emailed invoice was not accepted as proof of purchase, the team made changes to the content of the email to resolve the issue.

Since beta, the team have continued to iterate the design making sure it is simple to use. The team have engaged in the GDS design patterns and hackpad. The assessment panel think it would be great to see more evidence based design through doing more user research and the team have a clear research plan in place to allow them to continue to iterate the service in this way.

The panel are pleased to see the team go above and beyond in tackling the technical challenges of this project. They not only produced a digital service that is safe and secure, but added integrations with legacy case management tools to provide a better service to users despite wider organisational concerns about the technical feasibility of such integration. The panel was pleased to see the team proving out these integrations early in minimal style and demonstrating their ability to iterate upon difficult to change systems.

The assessment panel were very pleased to note that security specialists have been involved throughout the project, closely working with the team to ensure security throughout rather than being final gatekeepers or merely assuring the security of the product. The team seemed to have a good understanding of the risks of their service and had taken the appropriate risk based decisions for the platform. The assessment panel look forward to hearing more about this and encourage the team to blog about their experiences building a complex system in such a manner.

It should be clear that the scope of the service that has been assessed and passed the standard is the Visit Visa (China) service. The service team should talk to the GDS assessments team about how it continues to be assessed as the scope of the service expands either to include other countries, or other visa types.

Make all new source code open and reusable
While it is fantastic that part of the codebase has already been reused by the Registered Traveller service and the team have open sourced the payments part of the codebase, the remaining components are not yet open source. The panel were glad to hear that the Home Office Digital policy is to take open source commitments seriously and that the intention is to work at reversing the original closed source policy. GDS welcomes the team’s plan to continue to open source the remaining components over the next 6 months according to the supplied timeline:

Admin and Catalogue - April 2015
Copy Editor - May 2015
Customer - July 2015
PSN Boundary Controls - August 2015
Submission Service - August 2015

The team
There is a strong multidisciplinary team in place, but there have been gaps in the team during beta which have now been addressed. The team have had difficulties in recruiting a digital analyst, they now have an analyst joining the team, who will be working with all the Home Office exemplars (spending a third of their time with the Visas service). The service manager should assess the team’s ongoing need for analysis, particularly when the scope of the service widens.

The team can release code changes as often as needed, but deployments currently require downtime. Deployments are timed to happen at the least busy times and plans are in place to enable zero-downtime deploys. As the service expands worldwide, users will access the service increasingly out of UK office hours, and the panel also believe that the team cannot fully predict when the least busy times will be. The panel would therefore encourage the team to move to zero-downtime deployments as soon as possible.

Hosting on the domain
The assessment panel were disappointed to hear that although work was underway to migrate the domain over to, the service could reach the point of live assessment without being on the domain. To be ‘live’ the service must be hosted on the correct domain, and the current domain is not given permission to remove the beta banner as part of this assessment.

The team should contact the GDS content team to amend the GOV.UK start page once the domain is live.

The team should aim for user experience consistency across the service by following the GDS design patterns and guidelines, a design snag list will be sent separately to this report.

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 Yes 10 Yes
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