This document describes the minimum standard required when delivering a digital public service. The document is based upon GDS' "Digital by Default" standard.

Overview of the Digital First Service Standard

The Digital First Service Standard is a set of 22 criteria that all digital services developed by Scottish Central Government sector organisations and Scottish Government corporate services must meet. This includes services for users (for example submitting an application) or corporate services (for example checking your payslip online).

The standard has 3 themes:

  • user needs - focus on what your users want to do rather than the organisation’s objectives or the mechanics of delivering your service
  • technology - how you’ve built your service
  • business capability and capacity - having the right team with enough time to maintain the service

The standard aims to make sure that services in Scotland are continually improving and that users are always the focus.



User Centred

Understand user needs. Research to develop a deep knowledge of who the service users are and what that means for the design of the service.

Read more about user-centred.

Usable and Accessible

Create a service that is usable, accessible and intuitive enough that users succeed first time.

Read more about usable and accessible.

Channel Shift

Identify and, wherever possible, remove impediments that prevent users from using the digital service, clearly establishing it as the primary channel. Plan to provide appropriate assisted digital support if necessary.

Read more about channel shift.

Consistent User Experience

Build a service consistent with the user experience of the rest of including using the design patterns and style guide.

Read more about consistent user experience.

Continuous Feedback

Put a plan in place for ongoing user research and usability testing to continuously seek feedback and input from users to improve the service.

Read more about continuous feedback.

Data Driven

Use tools for analysis that collect performance data. Use this data to analyse the success of the service and to translate this into features and tasks for the next phase of development.

Read more about data driven.

Cross-functional Team

Put in place a sustainable multidisciplinary team that can design, build and operate the service, led by a suitably skilled senior manager with decision-making responsibility.

Read more about cross-functional teams.


Build a service that can be iterated and improved on a frequent basis and make sure that you have the capability, resources and technical flexibility to do so.

Read more about sustainability.

Continuous Improvement

Build the service incrementally, releasing early and often, using the iterative and user-centred methods set out in the GDS service manual.

Read more about continuous improvement.

Business Continuity

Define, document and regularly test a plan to handle disasters and other incidents that may cause the digital service to be taken temporarily offline.

Read more about business continuity.

Technology Appraisal

Evaluate what technology, tools and systems will be used to build, host, operate and measure the service, and how to procure them.

Read more about technology appraisal.

Information Governance

Evaluate what user data and information the digital service will be providing or storing, and address the security level, legal responsibilities, privacy issues and risks associated with the service (consulting with experts where appropriate).

Read more about information governance.

Open Data

Make all non-personal, non-commercially sensitive data from the service available for re-use by others under an appropriate licence.

Read more about open data.


Identify how your service aligns with Scotland’s digital ecosystem.

Read more about ecosystem.

Open Source

Make all new source code open and reusable, and publish it under appropriate licences (or provide a convincing explanation as to why this cannot be done for specific subsets of the source code).

Read more about open source.

Open Standards

Use open standards and common government platforms where available.

Read more about open standards.

Green ICT

Deliver a digital service whose impact on the environment, over its whole lifecycle, is understood. Plan to reduce the environmental impact of the service over time.

Read more about Green ICT.

Data Hosting and Data Centres

Adopt cloud computing or virtualisation as the preferred approaches to the delivery of data hosting for the service.

Read more about data hosting and data centres.

Performance Management

Identify performance indicators for the service, including the 4 mandatory key performance indicators (KPIs) defined in the GDS service manual. Establish a benchmark for each metric and make a plan to enable improvements.

The KPIs are:

Read more about performance management.


Publish performance data on the Digital First Performance Platform.

Read more about transparent.

Operational Acceptance

Regularly test the end-to-end service in an environment identical to that of the live version, including on all common browsers and devices, and using dummy accounts and a representative sample of users.

Read more about operational acceptance.

Test the service from beginning to end with the minister responsible for it.

Read more about sponsor acceptance.

A Digital First Service Standard poster is also available.