Watch Richard Pope, GDS product manager, describe the different phases of service design.

Building a digital service is a complex task, with many risks. By breaking development into phases you minimise risk, learning about what works and what doesn't, iterating as you go.

As the service progresses through development you'll find out more about users' needs, development requirements and the conditions your service will be operating in. The level of detail, complexity and risk will increase along the way.

This approach allows the team making and operating the service to start small, learn fast, and provide value to users as soon as possible.

  • Discovery

    A short phase, in which you start researching the needs of your service’s users, find out what you should be measuring, and explore technological or policy-related constraints.

    Learn about the discovery phase

  • Alpha

    A short phase in which you prototype solutions for your users needs. You’ll be testing with a small group of users or stakeholders, and getting early feedback about the design of the service.

    Learn about the alpha phase

  • Beta

    You’re developing against the demands of a live environment, understanding how to build and scale while meeting user needs. You’ll also be releasing a version to test in public.

    Learn about the beta phase

  • Live

    The work doesn’t stop once your service is live. You’ll be iteratively improving your service, reacting to new needs and demands, and meeting targets set during its development.

    Learn about the live phase

  • Retirement

    Even the best services may eventually reach retirement. That should be treated with the same care as went into the building and maintaining of that service.

    Learn about the retirement phase