Digital and technology skills

Content design

Writing text for the web that meets the needs of the user as clearly, simply and quickly as possible.

Content design should enable people to use a service or get information quickly and easily. It involves choosing the best format for content and making sure it’s written clearly and based on user needs.

Some relevant roles: content designers, content managers, web managers, web editors, digital publishers, information officers

Principles of content design

Applying design principles

Understanding how the GDS design principles apply to content design

Promoting good content design

Communicating the principles of good content design to others (eg always starting with user needs and writing in plain English)

Platform and media choices

Choosing the right platform

This involves:

  • considering all publishing channels (based on user needs) and determining the best platform for publishing content and services
  • choosing the right media (eg words, video or audio)

Understanding the GOV.UK proposition

This involves:

  • being familiar with the GOV.UK proposition
  • understanding when it’s more appropriate to publish content through third parties or social media

Content planning and content strategies

Planning content

This involves:

  • developing content plans and strategies that show how the identified user need will be met
  • having a good understanding of the creation and format of GOV.UK as a central government service

Managing implications and risks

Understanding the implications of publishing content and then appropriately managing the risks of doing so.

Considering design context

Understanding the importance of content within the service and interaction design context (eg writing flat pages for informational purposes is different from using content within a transaction or service to instruct the user on using it)

Turning complex information into easily understood content

Making informed decisions

Gaining in-depth knowledge of a wide range of subjects quickly, in order to make informed decisions about the best way to present information (including which content format to use)

Simplifying language

Turning complex subject matter into easily understood language, without losing depth of information.

Presenting information clearly

Presenting information in a way that users can understand.

Writing good content

Using plain English

Writing content in plain English to GOV.UK style with an understanding of how users read on the web.


Editing content to ensure it remains accurate, relevant and current, while continuing to meet user needs.

Stakeholder engagement and providing challenge

Challenging content decisions

Knowing how and when to challenge content that doesn’t meet user needs.

Communicating with stakeholders

Being able to communicate clearly with stakeholders at all levels, especially when challenging requests that don’t meet user needs or go against content design best practice.


This involves:

  • developing content that’s accessible by default, considering accessibility from the outset
  • ensuring that services are accessible to all users, irrespective of cognitive or physical disabilities or other issues that may make use difficult

Using writing and editing tools

Creating content and images

Being confident in using Markdown and being able to source and edit images.

Publishing content

This involves being:

  • confident using content publishing tools
  • able to design for different digital channels

Editing and reviewing the work of others

Editing and proofreading

This involves:

Ensuring accuracy

Understanding that when we (government) publish information, it has the potential to influence markets and affect end users - so it’s important that our content is accurate and clearly understood.

Analytics and search engine optimisation

Understanding and interpreting analytics data to improve content so it meets user needs and is optimised for search engines.

Learning resources:

The Service Design Manual includes an overview of the content designer role.

GOV.UK offers guidance on:

The London Agile Content Meetup is a network for anyone who works with content, offering knowledge sharing and other resources on using agile to help improve content.

The Government Digital Service blog has collected useful posts on the subject of content design under ‘Some interesting things about how we do content design’.

The University of Reading assessed GOV.UK’s content principles and made recommendations for improving them in ‘GOV.UK content principles: conventions and research background’.