Avoid innovation like the plague, says Government’s digital strategist

Festival of Marketing: Organisations that are developing digital products and services should focus first and foremost on ensuring they work properly for users, the Government’s digital strategist Russell Davies has said.

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In his closing address at the Festival of Marketing yesterday (13 November), Davies suggested that some brands become hung up on innovation or using the latest digital marketing techniques while neglecting basic user experience problems.

“You are better off making a product that works really well than taking an average one and promoting it,” he said.

As creative lead and now director of strategy for the Government Digital Service, Davies has overseen the development of the Government’s new website, Gov.uk.

Launched in 2012 as a single domain for all UK Government services, the site has won numerous accolades for simplifying and improving the user experience, including the Design Museum Design of the Year Award 2013.

The Gov.uk service now receives nine million visitors every week and has led to a cost saving of around £62m, Davies said.

He argued that the site’s plain design and appearance shows that the user experience is more important than innovation when creating successful online services: “Avoid innovation like the plague,” Davies said. “Focus on usability and fixing the things that don’t work.”

Davies added that traditional forms of advertising will become less important as digital transformation accelerates and consumers become increasingly demanding about the user experience. “We have moved from a world oriented around persuasion to a world oriented around usability.”

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