Content design: planning, writing and managing content


Adding links to content, making them accessible and GOV.UK's external linking policy.

Do not duplicate information. If it exists elsewhere on GOV.UK or can be better supplied by an organisation outside government, link to it instead.

Make sure all links are provided in context, at the point in the content at which they’re useful. Don’t put all the links together at the bottom of the page.

Don’t use unsorted lists of related links to point users to content you think they might be interested in. These are sometimes known as “further reading” or “more information”. GOV.UK provides other more effective ways for users to find related content.

When writing a link, make it descriptive and front-load it with relevant terms instead of using something generic like ‘click here’ or ‘more’. Generic links do not make sense out of context or tell users where a link will take them. They also do not work for people using screen readers, who often scan through lists of links to navigate a page. It’s important the links are descriptive so they make sense in isolation.

For links that lead to information rather than action, use the text about that information as the link. For example, ‘accessibility testing’. Consider using the title of the page the link goes to as your link text.

If your link takes the user to a page where they can start a task, start your link with a verb. For example, ‘send a tax return’.

Do not use the same link text to link to different places.

Links help people scan content, so do not swamp them with too many or link to the same tool or webpage throughout your page. Link to online services first, unless an offline alternative is better for your users.

Think about the size of the link users need to select. For users with reduced motor skills, a one word link could be very difficult to select.

If you need to link to an external site, read the external linking policy to find out what you should check first.

You can add links anywhere in body text, but not in titles, summaries or subheadings.

In Whitehall publisher, you must use Markdown to format:

GOV.UK external linking policy

You can link to an external website in one of these situations:

  • you’re linking to a government service or website
  • a user can only complete a task using a third party website, for example finding a driving instructor
  • there is evidence a user needs something that cannot be published on GOV.UK, for example information or advice government cannot or does not provide
  • a trustworthy source can support users better than GOV.UK can, for example it has a tool or feature that GOV.UK does not

Rules for linking to external websites

Users must be able to access the content without having to pay or register to see it.

You can link to commercial websites, but GOV.UK must be impartial. You must have reason for linking to one commercial website instead of another if they provide similar information. Linking to one commercial website instead of another can look like endorsement, or give one company an advantage over the other.

Check if the site is usable and accessible (especially on mobile) and if it’s a safe place to send a user. Read the site’s privacy and cookie policies.

Plan how you’re going to maintain the link. The content on the website can stop being useful. Links break and the design, content and privacy can change without warning.

You can put a link:

  • in the body of the text (inline)
  • as a related link in the right hand navigation

You can also raise a support request to feature a link in GOV.UK search results.

Link to a specific page, not the website’s homepage.

You must make it clear users are leaving GOV.UK if you’re using inline links.

For example:

[Find a counsellor on Counselling Directory]

Search for courses and training on:

  • [Careers Wales]

Using third party services to collect data for GOV.UK

Check that the provider meets GDS best practice for:

The provider is not allowed to access or use the data.

The third party must not be able to access or use the data it collects for GDS.

Do a Privacy Impact Assessment before you use the provider.

You should check that:

  • data is stored and handled securely
  • security is tested regularly
  • the third party provider meets General Data Protection Regulations
  • there is clear information to users about who owns the data, what their rights are, and who they should contact with questions