ALPHA This is a new pattern – it needs further testing and your feedback

Check before you start

Help users understand whether they should use your service before they start, so that they don’t waste time and effort.

If you do this well, you’ll improve user satisfaction and reduce unnecessary calls and applications to your service team.

Last updated: 5 July 2016

Meet user needs

Before using a service users might need to know:

  • what they need to do to meet their need, eg apply for a conditional licence so they can learn to drive
  • what rules they must follow, eg planning permission
  • if they have to use a service, eg drivers medical
  • if they can apply, eg carers allowance
  • how much it'll cost, eg firearm licence

Save time and money

You may have problems with your service, eg failure demand, including the following:

You may get calls from users asking:

  • how to do a thing, eg apply, register
  • what they need to do, eg fill in a form, visit a post office, pay money
  • when they need to do specific things, eg phoning before filling in a form
  • what rules apply to their situation, eg if they're applying for a visa from outside the EEA and EU
  • which forms they might need
  • what information do they put in a form

You might be processing applications from users who:

  • don't need to apply
  • aren't ready to apply
  • aren't eligible

You might also have users who:

  • fill in the wrong form accidently
  • break the rules because they don't understand what they have to do

Replace features in your service

You can use this pattern to replace features so you can improve your service.

Features you might want to replace could include:

  • phone calls with users helping them prepare applications, also known as "pre app chats"
  • lots of instructions on how to fill in a form
  • conditions split over multiple documents

Try an example of this pattern

You can try an example of a check before you start prototype.

See how other services have used this pattern



  • Renew passport, HO
  • Fitness to drive, DVLA


  • Child benefit, HMRC
  • Export licensing, BIS


Feedback and discuss this pattern on its wiki page.