The Government Digital Service (GDS) has revealed how it is making framework agreements and call-off contracts more user-friendly.
In its drive to make government digital services simpler and clearer for users, GDS claims it is applying user-centred design principles to digital procurement contracts.
On its blog, the agency claims that contracts are currently hard to use and inaccessible to many people that could benefit them.
A recent blog post notes that Digital Services contract documents contain over 88,000 words, meaning they will take around six hours to read based on average adult reading rate and not taking into account the fact that many contracts must be read more than once to be fully understood.
“Contracts are rarely designed using modern techniques to create digital content, including legal content,” claimed GDS Assistant Director for G-Cloud and Digital Commercial Programme Warren Smith.
“They’re often worded in a way that suggests an expectation that something’s going to go wrong. Lots of content uses negative or controlling language, e.g. termination; consequences; liabilities; penalties; prevention; safeguarding; dispute and so on,” he added.
To tackle this issue, the Digital Services redesign will see contracts worded in plain English instead and negative language will be replaced with more neutral terminology.
According to Smith, obscure terminology and language, inconsistent and duplicate content, lack of structure, poor format and layout and the unnecessary volume of words used will all be removed from contracts in the future.
“The Digital Marketplace is about helping those transforming public services by making it simpler, clearer and faster for them to buy what they need,” claimed Smith.
“The majority of buyers and suppliers aren’t legal professionals and aren’t overly familiar with legal terminology. Let’s aim to make our contracts reflect this,” he added.