These are the relevant formats to use when the government talks about what it’s doing. The following real life examples show how you might meet users’ needs for information about government policy. They’re intended as illustrations.
Top-level introductions to policy
Analysis and research shows there is little audience for top-level introductions to policy compared with task-focused guidance content.
However, sometimes there’s a need to explain government activity in brief, without going into the level of detail that users of the ‘policy paper’ format expect.
The best way to know how to publish this is to explore the user need more closely. How and why will users find this information? It’s bad content design practice to burden users with information that’s irrelevant to what they need right now.
Policy in guidance
Around 80% of page visits on GOV.UK are to guidance to help users complete a task or interaction with government. Most people will not read background text that’s not relevant to the task they’re performing.
Some users want to know the detail of policy, but they are not the same users as people looking for guidance.
Guidance on how to apply for a programme or scheme should not include more than 1 or 2 sentences about what the programme is.
Guidance should not include:
- why it exists (the problem being solved)
- how much money has been allocated to it
- who runs it
- aspirational statements about the intended outcome
These should be in a policy paper or other formats explained in the scenarios in this guidance.
Scenario 1: announcing a new policy or activity
There are a number of formats you can use to tell users about a new policy or activity.
These formats include:
These are sufficient to announce something new until more specific information is available.
An example announcement is Government sets out plans to reshape workplace pensions.
Scenario 2: policy top-level introductions
Use a policy paper to set the context and reasoning behind a policy.
This means you can explain the intentions and research behind a policy separately from information about how it’s being implemented.
Scenario 3: government activity top-level introductions
If this information is brief, you can add it to a relevant corporate information page. For example, use a ‘Petitions and campaigns’ page for policy information about a campaign.
You can alternatively use a policy paper to explain what the government is doing about a particular policy or issue. This might include information about:
- how the government is implementing a policy
- how much money is being spent
You can group a number of related publications for a known audience in a document collection.
This allows users to find all the information about a distinct government activity in 1 place.
Scenario 4: more detail about an aspect of the policy
Detail about the policy should be part of a policy paper.
This could include:
- the outcome the government is trying to achieve
- actions the government is taking to achieve the outcome
- why the government is doing this activity
- the background to this policy
- the budget and timescale for the policy actions
For example, How the Charity Commission solves safeguarding problems in charities.
Scenario 5: telling users that something may change in the future
To tell users that something is changing and they may need to do it differently in the future, use a news story. This includes new schemes they may be able to apply for or services they may be able to use.
Make sure this news story is user-focused. Make it as short and factual as possible. For example, Transit visa requirements are changing.
There are different rules if the change is related to the end of the transition period with the EU. Use the guidance on preparing users for the end of the transition period.
Scenario 6: telling users they may need to do something now to prepare for a change in the future
Sometimes a change to a policy, scheme or service will either:
- mean that users need to do something to prepare
- affect a major decision citizens or businesses need to make now
If there’s clear evidence of this, use guidance content to tell users about how upcoming changes will affect them now. You may also need to publish a short, factual, user-focused news story to announce the changes.
There’s guidance on how to plan and create content to help users prepare for policy changes, including changes related to the end of the transition period with the EU.