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  1. Service manual
  2. Design
  3. Check before you start

This guide explains how to help users work out if they can or should use your service by asking them a series of questions.

Meeting the Digital Service Standard

To pass point 13 (make the user experience consistent with GOV.UK) in your service assessments, you must use GOV.UK design patterns and guidance.

Read the guide on using, adapting and creating design patterns before you start designing or building anything.


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See a complete example of ‘Check before you start’.

Why use this pattern

You should help people find out whether your service is right for them as soon as you can. Doing this means they won’t waste time trying to use it if they’re not eligible or don’t need it.

Using ‘Check before you start’ can also lower your operating costs by reducing the time and effort that support teams spend explaining your service.

For example, before deciding to use a service users often ask:

  • am I eligible?
  • how much will it cost to use?
  • how much money will I get?
  • how long will it take to get something?

Services also spend time and effort processing applications from users who don’t need, aren’t eligible or aren’t ready to use a service.

How to use this pattern

When using this pattern, you need to:

  1. Ask a series of simple questions.

  2. Automatically work out what a user needs to know.

  3. Present the user with a ‘results’ page.

If there are general rules about whether a service can or can’t be used (for example, an age limit or fixed deadline), include these on the start page.

Ask simple questions

If you’re struggling to write simple questions because the policy is too complicated, work with relevant teams in your organisation to make it simpler.

You’ll only be able to ask users clear questions when the process itself is clear.

Presenting results

Your results page could show the user:

  • if they have to use your service
  • if they’re eligible to use it
  • how much it will cost them to use it
  • how much money they’ll get from using it
  • how long the whole process will take

If a user isn’t eligible to use your service, explain why.

Here’s an example of a results page:

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Discuss this pattern

Discuss using ‘Check before you start’ on the design patterns wiki.

Research on this pattern

Read a blog post about testing and iterating the check before you start pattern.

You may also find these guides useful:

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Design community
Last update:

Guidance first published