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  1. Service manual
  2. Helping people to use your service
  3. Encouraging people to use your digital service

You must encourage people to use your digital service instead of doing the task it provides by non-digital routes, like post or telephone.

This is known as increasing your service’s ‘digital take-up’.

Digital take-up is the percentage of people using government services online instead of other channels, eg paper or telephone.

You must also measure digital take-up.

Meeting the Digital Service Standard

To pass point 14 (encourage everyone to use the digital service) in your service assessments you must:

  • make sure as many people as possible use your digital service
  • phase out non-digital ways of using your service, apart from assisted digital support

Find out why people don’t use your digital service

You should carry out research with users who aren’t using your digital service, to understand:

  • their user journey, ie how they interact with your service, digitally or otherwise
  • why they prefer to complete the task your service provides using non-digital methods

Include users who:

  • currently use your service or might use it in future
  • need assisted digital support
  • are currently choosing non-digital channels
  • have stopped using your service because it’s digital only

In your research, investigate whether any of the following are true for your users:

  • they aren’t aware of the digital service
  • they don’t want to use the digital service
  • they find the digital service too difficult to use
  • they don’t have the digital skills to use your particular service and don’t know how to get assisted digital support
  • they can’t access the internet
  • there are legal barriers that stop them using the service, eg some services need users to send ink signatures
  • they don’t think your digital service is safe or don’t trust it to handle their data securely

Consider your findings and think about how you’ll use them when you start trying to increase digital take-up.

For more, see: understanding users who don’t use digital services.

Increase digital take-up

There are many ways you can encourage users to use your digital service. You need to find the ways that work best for your service.

You may want to:

  • promote your service to users
  • train staff to educate users, and boost staff awareness of the digital service and their confidence in it
  • limit or remove access to non-digital alternatives

Promote your service to users

You may need to tell users about your service in ways that encourage them to use it, and in the places where they’ll hear about it.

For example, you could:

  • use digital and non-digital channels
  • promote the digital service in the same places as the non-digital alternative is or was promoted
  • make sure your messages prompt action, for example by signposting to a memorable URL that goes straight to the service
  • promote the assisted digital support options for the digital service - this reassures users that there is help for them if they need it
  • promote the digital service in all communications to users, including publications and other websites, and more prominently than non-digital alternatives
  • communicate the benefits of using your digital service over non-digital alternatives

You could also use clear messages that address users’ concerns. For example, you could tell users:

  • how you’re dealing with any security issues they may have
  • how the service is more simple, eg if it’s quicker to use
  • how much cheaper the service is to complete

Talk to the Cabinet Office behavioural insights team to get case studies of services that have encouraged users to change their behaviour.

Train staff to educate users

You may want to train user support staff to use your digital service so that they can:

  • understand its benefits
  • encourage users to use the digital service
  • offer support if users need it

Include staff working on non-digital alternatives, and third parties so they can:

  • encourage users to use the digital service
  • offer support if users need it

You should:

  • make sure staff are using the same version of the same digital service as users
  • explain the advantages of the digital service to staff
  • show staff how users use the digital service, including how they get assisted digital support
  • ask staff and third parties to promote the digital service to users who aren’t choosing to use it - particularly staff who mainly work with those users
  • consider whether an increase in people using the digital service could change how support staff need to do their job, and explain any changes

Limit or remove access to non-digital alternatives

You may want to encourage people to try your digital service by reducing the options to do the task in other ways. For example, you could:

  • send a postcard with the digital service’s URL and assisted digital support options instead of sending out the old paper form
  • give the service’s URL and assisted digital support options to users who come to face-to-face venues for support

You may find the following guides useful: