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  1. Service manual
  2. Service assessments
  3. How service assessments work

The service you’re building may have to be assessed, either by the Government Digital Service (GDS) or by your own department (or parent department if you’re in an agency).

When your own department does the assessment, it’s called a ‘self-certification assessment’.

Check if you need to get your service assessed and who’ll do the assessment.

Why service assessments matter

If your service meets the conditions that mean it has to be assessed, you must pass 3 service assessments to demonstrate you’re building it in a way that meets the Digital Service Standard.

Benefits of service assessments

Service assessments allow you to:

  • get feedback about the service you’re building from a panel of experts
  • solve problems with your service while you build it and reduce the risk of bigger problems happening later
  • share your knowledge and learn more about how to build services
  • promote the work you’re doing

Why GDS assesses services

GDS assesses services to:

  • make sure they all meet the service standard
  • protect the quality of GOV.UK
  • associate GOV.UK with high quality public services

Who to bring to a service assessment

If you’re a service manager, you must attend all service assessments. You can choose 4 people from your team to come with you.

You should pick the 4 people who you think are best able to answer questions about your service based on Digital Service Standard prompts and evidence.

Most services bring a user researcher and a technical architect, but you can choose to bring whichever 4 people you want.

Who runs service assessments

Who runs your service assessment will depend on whether it’s assessed at GDS or in your department.

Assessments at GDS

At a GDS assessment, your service will be assessed by a panel, usually made up of people from GDS. GDS assessments take place at Aviation House in London.

Assessments at a department

At a department assessment, your service will be assessed by a panel of GDS-trained assessors. The department that’s leading the development of the service will run the assessment.

The assessment panel will decide whether your service passes, with the leading department’s digital leader making the final decision on whether your service can move on to the next development stage.

What you have to do at an assessment

At both GDS and department assessments, your service team needs to:

  • give a brief overview of the service
  • demonstrate the service by walking the panel through an end-to-end transaction
  • answer questions from the panel, demonstrating how the service meets the service standard

The questions are based on the Digital Service Standard prompts and evidence that the panel uses to assess each point of the standard.

Getting your results

The panel will give your service one of the following results:

  • pass
  • didn’t pass
  • didn’t pass with a recommendation that the service stop development

When you get GDS assessment results

You should get your assessment results within 3 working days, in an email sent to you and the digital leader that’s responsible for the service you’re building.

When you get self-certification results

The time it takes to get self-certification results after an assessment will vary depending on the department.

Ask the assessment panel when they expect to send you the result.

After you get your results

Your next steps will depend on which phase your service is in.

If your service passes an alpha assessment

If your service passes an alpha assessment you may need to apply to GDS for approval to spend money on beta and live phases - this is part of a process called ‘spend controls’. Check if you need to apply for this spend approval.

If you apply for approval to spend money on your service and your application is rejected, GDS will explain what evidence you must give to get the funding.

If your service passes a beta assessment

If your service passes a beta assessment, you’ll be able to launch it publicly with beta branding on GOV.UK.

If your service passes a live assessment

If it passes a live assessment, you can remove the beta branding, along with any warnings on the GOV.UK start page.

If your service doesn’t pass

If your service doesn’t pass, the panel will give you feedback and recommendations on how to change what you’re doing so your service meets the standard.

You’ll then have to get your service assessed again. The panel will tell you whether it needs a full reassessment or just a check that you’ve fixed the points it didn’t pass.

If the panel decides your service doesn’t meet the standard for 1 or 2 themes (eg user research and analytics) you’re more likely to have to go to a partial reassessment.

If your service had many more problems, or it’s been a long time since your service’s original assessment, you may have to get it fully reassessed. You may be able to do a reassessment by video conference.

If your service doesn’t pass the beta assessment, it usually won’t appear on or be linked from GOV.UK.

Assessment reports

After you’ve got your result, GDS will publish a report of the assessment on the GDS data blog.

GDS will send you the report to read before it goes live, so you’ll have a chance to discuss any issues you have with what it says.

Examples and case studies

To learn more about how service assessments work, you can:

You may also find these guides useful:

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Standards and assurance community
Last update:

Added a link.

Link to AD assessment guide - necessary info to meet user need.