https://gdsdata.blog.gov.uk/companies-house-service-service-assessment/

Companies House Service - Service Assessment

The Companies House Service is a new, unified web service that brings together the company search and filing functionality that was previously split across disparate, legacy web services. This free to use service allows users to find company information and for companies to update their own company information.

Department / Agency:
BIS / CH

Date of Assessment:
3/12/2014

Assessment stage:
Beta

Result of Assessment:
Pass

Lead Assessor:
J. Barlow

Service Manager:
R. McNeil

Digital Leader:
T. Knighton


Assessment Report

The Companies House Service is seeking permission to launch on service.gov.uk as a Beta service.

Outcome of service assessment

After consideration the assessment panel has concluded that Companies House Service has shown sufficient progress and evidence of meeting the Digital by Default Service Standard criteria, and should proceed to launch as a Beta service and move to a service.gov.uk domain.

Reasons

The assessment panel were impressed by the extensive user research that had been completed by the service. The service had a very good overall understanding of user needs and showed clear examples and evidence of how this had and will continue to be used to improve the service.

There was also evidence to show how initial design decisions had been challenged and changed in line with user feedback. For example, the search functionality was simplified following feedback from users.

There were also a number of examples of where policy and legislation had been challenged to make sure the service meets user needs.

The service has been designed so that a number of existing Companies House services are consolidated into a single, simpler service. This included looking at both online and offline elements as part of the same user journey.

There was evidence of effective digital take-up activity, making users aware of and encouraging them to use the online service.

There was a commitment to making Companies House data open and free of charge. This included Companies House using the same RESTful API as third parties.

The service has been designed so that there can be an individual URL for every UK company, allowing each to be easily indexed by search engines. Search is one of Companies House core functions, so it makes sense to make data open to search engines in this way.

Recommendations

The assessment panel recommends that the service continues to work with GDS to integrate the service more fully into GOV.UK. This work will need to be completed before the service returns for live assessment. Be aware that the operation of a service on the service.gov.uk subdomain does not permit the indexing of information from search engines. To allow for this, an alternative would need to be agreed with GDS.

User research should be primarily task-based. It’s more important that users can complete the tasks they need to, than opinions on wording and layout. Rather than always setting a scenario that fits what the service currently offers, user-generated tasks should be used to understand what users expect to do with the service. This will more accurately reflect the experience of users who are less familiar with what Companies House offer. Use a mix of recruitment methods to test with a wide range of people - too heavy a reliance on volunteers in the user panel will bias results to people who are familiar with Companies House, and those more likely to understand what they can do with the beta service.

The service team should determine the optimal company authentication user journey for company officers and 3rd parties, and work towards this with the policy team. The team should consider contacting the teams working on Your Tax Account at HMRC, and Rural Payments at the RPA as these services are working on the same problem.

It was mentioned during the assessment that there are several users who simply consume the whole API. If so, it may make sense to offer timestamped, gzipped database dumps and a latest changes feed.

The service team should increase qualitative research with assisted digital users as planned, and fully test the proposed support to ensure it meets user needs and the assisted digital standard.

The assessment panel would expect most of the service's source code to be made publicly available. Rather than making a judgement on what source code will be useful and reusable, the default approach should be to publish (sensitive information such as passwords, configuration information etc. should remain private). The panel would particularly like to see Perl code using the front end toolkit be made available to other government agencies, in case other services are considering a similar approach.

Summary

The panel were impressed by the overall breadth and depth of research that had been completed. It was clear throughout the assessment that the team has a strong commitment to delivering a service that meets user needs and continues to improve.

The team also gave a number of examples where they had challenged and pushed back where research showed that user needs were not being met.

The service had a clear plan and vision on how they plan to deliver improvements in the future, again prioritised by user need.


Digital by Default Service Standard criteria

Criteria Passed Criteria Passed
1 Yes 2 Yes
3 Yes 4 Yes
5 Yes 6 Yes
7 Yes 8 Yes
9 Yes 10 Yes
11 Yes 12 Yes
13 Yes 14 Yes
15 Yes 16 Yes
17 Yes 18 Yes
19 Yes 20 Yes
21 Yes 22 Yes
23 Yes 24 Yes
25 Yes 26 Yes