Check or challenge a business rates valuation beta reassessment

The report from the beta reassessment for VOA's check or challenge a business rates valuation service on 27 March 2017.

From: Government Digital Service
Assessment date: 27 March 2017
Stage: Beta
Result: Met
Service provider: Valuation Office Agency

The service met the Standard because:

  • Content has been simplified to ensure users unfamiliar with VOA processes will be able to succeed
  • The team have taken steps to help users succeed first time given the file upload component only accepts PDF and JPEG formats
  • The team engaged with GOV.UK Verify.

About the service

Description

The service allows users to check the rateable value for their property or properties and suggest changes with supporting evidence.

Service users

The users of this service are businesses with a commercial property or properties and agents acting on their behalf.

Detail

At the beta assessment on 9 March 2017, the panel recommended the business rates valuation service team complete the following actions before moving to public beta:

  • Improve service content to ensure it is understandable to users unfamiliar with VOA processes, using clear language and terms where possible, and contextual help to support users where necessary.
  • Ensure the service supports open standard formats.
  • Engage with the GOV.UK Verify team

This report reviews the work completed by the team since the 9 March beta assessment.

Improve service content

The service team has made significant improvements to the content following the beta assessment.

They have made much of the service easier to use by changing previously opaque language to terms users are likely to be familiar with. The most notable improvements have been in simplifying how a user finds the right part of the service to request a change to a property’s valuation.

Using plainer terminology has helped the team reduce the reliance on help text and will give non-professional users a better chance in succeeding first time.

In public beta the team should continue to test and iterate the content, making it simpler and clearer where possible.

Ensure the service supports open standard formats

The service supports PDF and JPEG uploads at current. Both of these formats can be considered ‘open’ as their historical patents have expired, however the panel would still prefer to see a wider range of fully open formats supported, including ODF and PNG.

The service team has reiterated this to the team responsible for the shared file upload component in HMRC and once the technical work and security sign offs are completed, it should be possible to support more formats.

To help users succeed when using this part of the service, the team has take the following steps:

  • improved content that explains how to convert documents to PDF and JPEG
  • Added on page details of the support options available to users, including a telephone number
  • Ensured call centre staff are trained and able to help users convert files to PDF or JPEG format
  • Established alternative ways for users to submit documents and supporting evidence where they cannot meet the file upload requirements.

The team should use analytics information to determine whether users are getting stuck on the file upload page, how long it takes them to progress beyond this point, and whether support was needed. The team should work closely with the HMRC file upload team to ensure their user’s needs are represented as the file upload component is improved.

While the panel will expect to see more progress on this by the time of the live assessment, we consider the situation is now good enough to proceed to public beta.

Engage with the GOV.UK Verify team

The team have reached out to GOV.UK Verify, as suggested at alpha. Although this engagement is nascent, it will enable the service team to understand when or if Verify may be an appropriate identity solution for their user needs.

Recommendations

To pass the next assessment, the service team must:

  • Support more file upload formats, prioritising the formats research shows are most common amongst service users, as well as those formats considered fully open and patent unencumbered, such as ODF and PNG.

Next Steps

You should follow the recommendations made in this report and the beta assessment report from 9 March 2017 before arranging your next assessment.

This service now has permission to launch on a GOV.UK service domain. These instructions explain how to set up your *.service.gov.uk domain.

Get advice and guidance

The team can get advice and guidance on the next stage of development by:

Digital Service Standard points

Point Description Result
9 Using open standards and common government platforms Met
13 Ensuring consistency with the design and style of GOV.UK Met
Published 24 July 2018