Support for government publishers

Help with content quality

How the Government Digital Service does 'spot checks' of GOV.UK content.

Spot checks

GDS regularly spot checks GOV.UK content to make sure it’s written to style and follows content and publishing guidance.

Spot check reports are sent to departments and agencies.

How we select content to spot check

We select content based on:

  • recent public prominence
  • high pageviews
  • topical interest
  • high importance
  • the content’s current quality level

We choose:

  • 75% from the 15 highest profile departments and agencies (measured by monthly traffic figures and importance)
  • 25% from the rest of government

How we do a spot check

A GDS content designer selects a content item to review. They highlight any major or minor errors, or if the content needs to be rewritten.

A major error is something that could stop the user understanding the content or that completely disrupts their experience. A minor error is something that makes it harder for the user to understand the content.

Content needs to be rewritten if:

  • there are 5 or more errors in the first 10 sentences
  • there are 20 errors in total
  • it’s in the wrong content type (like a detailed guide that should be a policy supporting detail page)
  • the text is so unclear that the page does not fulfill its main purpose
  • it’s in the wrong section of GOV.UK

The content designer may also suggest ways that the content could be improved which are not recorded as errors.

The spot check is reviewed by a second GDS content designer to make sure the feedback is accurate and objective.

Major and minor error list for spot checks: Google Drive document [Major and minor error list for spot checks]: PDF

Spot check metrics

The spot check includes a content item’s readability score which shows the:

  • reading age needed to understand it
  • number of words
  • number of sentences
  • average number of words per sentence
  • number of headings

Where available, the spot check also includes the user needs and page metrics for the content item.

The page metrics show:

  • the number of pageviews (low numbers can mean users are not interested in or cannot find the content)
  • searches started from the page (this can indicate that users did not find the content they expected to see)
  • the number of ‘problem reports’ (anonymous feedback from GOV.UK users)

Here’s an example of the page metrics for the Apply for a UK visa page.

Spot check reports

We spot check content each week. We send the spot check report to the person who last published the content item and the single point of contact (SPOC) for their department or agency. The SPOC should pass the report to the people responsible for writing the content.

We’ll publish an overview of the spot check round when it’s completed - approximately once every 3 months.