In this section:

Why these principles

In 2018, we explored tools that had the potential to support the UK charity sector to deliver digital services more effectively.

During our research, we found that many organisations delivering or funding great digital services were using digital design principles in one form or another.

Even though there are some great digital and design principles out there, we found there wasn’t a set that worked for charities. People often ended up picking and choosing their own sets. This had two problems:

  1. While it was fine for people who had experience, those who weren’t confident in digital service delivery didn’t know where to start, or what principles they should or shouldn’t be using.
  2. It meant there was a lack of clarity about what ‘good’ looks like when developing digital services. This had the potential to cause unnecessary miscommunication, especially between charities and funders.

That’s why we built on the excellent work already done in this area and facilitated the creation of a set of digital design principles for UK charities.

These principles can help clarify exactly what good looks like – but not in a restrictive way. Rather, they give the spirit and direction of how people should be working to develop effective digital services. These principles are for funders and charities; from front-line staff to trustees. They are plain-speaking and communicate the essence of what effective digital service delivery should be about.

Methodology to get to these principles

This process was always about building on what already exists, and finding ways to help get principles embedded in organisational cultures and processes.

Lots of great thinking has already gone on around the idea of digital design principles, both in Government contexts (Government Digital Service, 18f, Government of Canada) and in international development (Principles for Digital Development, Alidade).

So rather than create new principles from scratch, we conducted extensive testing and research with dozens of  people working in grant-making organisations and charities. This included 1-1 interviews and workshops with sector leaders. We tested the existing sets of principles using exercises like card sorting to help understand how people prioritised them, where they overlapped, and equally where there were gaps. As part of this research, we also investigated where and how principles are used effectively in existing teams.

We used this research to identify a long-list of key principles, as well as ideas for how to make them tangible, accessible and useful to the sector. We then held further in-depth interviews with charities and funders, and this culminated in a large open workshop where more than 30 different organisations came together to prioritise, critique and input into the final shortlist.

Based on this input and analysis, we were able to draw up version one of the list.

How to use these principles

These principles are specifically designed to support charities to develop digital services.

This site is a way for people to explore them. Here are some key ways we suggest you use them to help you in your work:

Communicate and advocate

We’ve found through our research that the real value of principles is as a communication tool. They help teams and organisations share and discuss what good looks like. They are almost always communicated best in person, through stories. So we recommend you take these principles and discuss and share them in your team and organisation.

Tell stories

Principles are often most meaningful when there’s context, or a story, attached to them. So we’ve included case studies of how each one is being put into action by UK charities of all sizes. The case studies show how applying these principles can save time, money, and create better social outcomes. Ideally, you’ll share the principles with stories from your own experience.

Tools and tips to get started

Stories and conversations help people understand the principles, but it’s also important that there are clear steps to start using them. That’s why we’ve included tools and guidance to help put these principles into action.

As part of this, there are also some key scenarios you might be facing if you’re a charity or funder; these are designed to give you ideas about how to use these principles to help you in your work.

Print them out

Lastly, while in-person conversations are powerful, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have the principles visually represented as well. Print them out, put them by the kettle or on a door to help get people thinking and talking about them.

How you can feedback on the principles

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the principles or any suggestions you might have for case studies. Please email us [email protected]

We’ll are always interested in getting feedback to make these principles better.