Awarded to Kin and Carta UK Limited

Start date: Monday 6 March 2023
Value: £778,350
Company size: large
Cabinet Office (Government Digital Service)

WP2114: GOV.UK site search improvement

6 Incomplete applications

6 SME, 0 large

13 Completed applications

12 SME, 1 large

Important dates

Monday 14 November 2022
Deadline for asking questions
Monday 21 November 2022 at 11:59pm GMT
Closing date for applications
Monday 28 November 2022 at 11:59pm GMT


Off-payroll (IR35) determination
Contracted out service: the off-payroll rules do not apply
Summary of the work
Identify, test and evaluate a range of managed site search solutions for the GOV.UK website to improve search performance. The chosen solution will be integrated with the GOV.UK tech stack in a subsequent stage of work.
Latest start date
Wednesday 1 February 2023
Expected contract length
9 months
No specific location, for example they can work remotely
Organisation the work is for
Cabinet Office (Government Digital Service)
Budget range
Limit of £898,000 across the 3 stages of the work.

About the work

Why the work is being done
Our goal is to significantly improve the quality of the GOV.UK site search experience for users by improving the relevancy of results. We would also like to reduce the long term maintenance work required of the GOV.UK team.

GOV.UK site search is currently powered by a self-hosted Elasticsearch database. We would like to investigate and evaluate alternative search solutions. We're particularly interested in fully managed search engine services. If we can identify a measurably better solution for users, we want to implement it.

We would like to begin the work as soon as possible, starting no later than February 2023.
Problem to be solved
We want to test and evaluate a range of managed site search solutions, to identify the best solution for measurably improving the relevancy of GOV.UK search results. We then want to integrate that solution with the GOV.UK tech stack.

Stage 1: Evaluate & trial Search products

- Work with GOV.UK stakeholders and users to establish functional and non-functional requirements, based around user needs. This will include accessibility requirements (at least WCAG AA) and progressive enhancement
- Work with the stakeholders to establish evaluation criteria
- Create Proof of concepts with selected products
- Develop and implement a comparative quantitative testing approach to make an evidence-based comparison of products with representative usage
- Evaluate and shortlist potential products, to establish the best fit with GOV.UK’s requirements and make recommendations for approval by stakeholders

Stage 2: Implementation

- Implement new search approach into GOV.UK’s live tech stack
- A/B testing of the new approach as part of staged rollout
- Design process for any search management required by GOV.UK teams
- Outline any developer tasks required on a ongoing basis

Stage 3: Support and optimisation

- Ongoing optimisation of the chosen platform
- Ongoing support and maintenance of the chosen platform
Who the users are and what they need to do
As a person who is looking for a piece of information or service from government
I need to use GOV.UK site search
So that I can find the information or service I am looking for
Early market engagement
Any work that’s already been done
GOV.UK site search is a live service with millions of weekly users based on self-hosted Elasticsearch.

We have already identified a few managed search products that we would like to evaluate including (but not limited to):
- Google Programmable Search Engine
- Bing Custom Search API
- AWS CloudSearch
- Algolia
- Miso
Existing team
The supplier will be working with a small group of stakeholders made up members of the GOV.UK team with expertise in GOV.UK's existing search product and tech stack. The supplier will be expected to drive and manage the work.
Current phase

Work setup

Address where the work will take place
London, Bristol or Manchester. (Remote working is possible but you may occasionally be required to attend meetings at one of these locations)
Working arrangements
This work can be done entirely remotely if needed, we would like to be able to have initial kick-off meetings and regular check-ins with the team to discuss progress which could be done via video call.
Security clearance

Additional information

Additional terms and conditions
All expenses must be pre-agreed with between the parties and must comply with the Cabinet Office (CO) Travel and Subsistence (T&S) Policy.

All vendors are obliged to provide sufficient guarantees to implement appropriate technical and organisational measures so that the processing meets the requirements of GDPR and ensures the protection of the rights of data subjects. For further information please see the Information Commissioner's Office website:

Skills and experience

Buyers will use the essential and nice-to-have skills and experience to help them evaluate suppliers’ technical competence.

Essential skills and experience
  • Ruby software development experience
  • Experience working in an agile environment
  • Experience working in a complex multi stakeholder project
  • Ability to communicate with stakeholders clearly and regularly, and advocate for user needs
  • Experience of evaluating different solutions to check assumptions
Nice-to-have skills and experience
  • Experience working with search engines, search databases or search products.
  • Familiarity with AI/ML and semantic approaches as applied to search

How suppliers will be evaluated

All suppliers will be asked to provide a written proposal.

How many suppliers to evaluate
Proposal criteria
  • The proposed approach and methodology for the evalution of search products
  • How the approach or solution will ensure improvement of user experience
  • Team structure and organisational makeup
  • Track record of delivery on similar projects
  • "How they’ve identified the high-level risks and dependencies of a managed search approach for GOV.UK "
Cultural fit criteria
  • Work collaboratively with our stakeholders
  • Transparent and collaborative when making decisions
  • Data-informed decision making
  • Work as a self-organising team
  • Proactive problem-solving
Payment approach
Capped time and materials
Additional assessment methods
  • Case study
  • Work history
Evaluation weighting

Technical competence


Cultural fit




Questions asked by suppliers

1. Would you accept extensive experience which is similar to Ruby software development (such as Python etc.) rather than expressly having Ruby software development experience
Ruby has been set as an essential requirement for this work because in Stage 2 changes will need to be made to high profile, production Rails applications, as a result, we will need people with professional Ruby experience to do this.
2. Is there an archive of historic onsite search queries for
If so, how far does it go back, and roughly how many unique queries are held within it?
This is something we can provide, for a single year we're seeing upwards of 17M unique queries and we should be able to provide data for multiple years if needed.
3. Can you provide some clarity on the timescales of the timelines on the Phases of the project?
The length of the stages can be defined by the supplier but indicatively we suggest, Stage 1, 2-4 months, Stage 2, 3-4 months, stage 3, would last for the remainer of the 9 month contract. At the end of the 9 months we would consider whether to enter into a longer term support arrangement or maintain the solution in-house. We would like stage 1 to begin in February 2023.
4. Please could you elaborate on where Ruby development experience is needed for this project?
In stage 2, we plan to integrate the chosen Search solution with GOV.UK's live tech stack for further evaluation (such as A/B testing). We'd also like to explore how various related parts of GOV.UK's search apparatus (such as the ability to promote / demote specific pages) could work with the new solution. GOV.UK's system is almost entirely Ruby on Rails, so some experience with Ruby will be required to ensure the supplier is able to do this work with limited support from the GOV.UK team
5. What are your envisaged timelines for the three stages?
The length of the stages can be defined by the supplier but indicatively we suggest, stage 1, 2-4 months, stage 2, 3-4 months, stage 3, for the remainer of the 9 month contract. At the end of the 9 months we would consider whether to enter into a longer term support arrangement or maintain the solution in-house. We would like stage 1 to begin in February 2023.
6. Will the Support and optimisation stage involve a service desk component with SLA? If so can you describe the support requirement (e.g. Office hours/24x7, L1, L2, L3)
We expect there to be a period of ongoing improvement and response to emerging needs (e.g. ensuring that newly published topical content is prioritised if necessary), as well as some ongoing observation and measurement of the solution's performance.

We do not require 24/7 / out of hours support, but would expect to be able to report bugs and request minor improvements during office hours.
7. How long will the support phase be from the budget
This this would last for the remainder of the 9 month contract following the conclusion of stages 1 and 2. At the end of the 9 months we would consider whether to enter into a longer term support arrangement or maintain the solution in-house.