Find out how the Government Digital Service works with government agencies and arm's length bodies to move their websites to GOV.UK.
When completed later this year, the transition of 300 agencies and arm’s length bodies will establish GOV.UK as the single domain for government.
Transition stage 1: engage and discover
Your transition manager will be your single point of contact at GDS and guide you through the whole process.
During this first stage, they will:
- arrange training in user needs, the GOV.UK style guide, the Whitehall publishing tool and analytics
- help you understand and adopt agile methodologies
- talk to you about the timescale for your transition, which will vary from a few weeks to months, depending on the size and complexity of the content you will be uploading to GOV.UK
To help you identify your user needs, you need to understand how your existing website is used. If you’re not already using an analytics tool on your website, you should install one, ideally Google Analytics.
GDS will needs access to your log files, so they can understand how many people visit the pages on your website, and how often they view them.
Information assurance and security
Transition stage 2: identify user needs
GOV.UK puts user needs first. Every part of the site design and architecture, and every piece of published content, meets a need that the public, businesses or customers have of government.
Content will only be published on GOV.UK if it meets a valid user need or if it:
- is a service only provided by the government
- explains what people, businesses or professionals can do, need to do or need to know before they can do something that is regulated by government
- explains the purpose of a government organisation
- is, or relates directly to, something the government provides, does or pays for
At this stage, GDS will:
- host a user needs workshop where you will define and prioritise your user needs
- validate your user needs
- introduce you to Maslow, a tool to capture user needs
- advise you on archiving content to The National Archives, if it does not meet a valid user need
Transition stage 3: prepare for build
Building content on GOV.UK is a shared responsibility between your agency and GDS.
At this stage, GDS will:
- give you and your editors training in how to write for the web, use the GOV.UK style guide and publish content using the Whitehall publisher tool
- work with you to decide who will be responsible for writing content that delivers your user needs (GDS content designers write content for needs that apply to a large number of people or businesses, you will be responsible for writing content that meets specialist needs)
- help you create a content plan, which will guide what content format types you should use
Your transition manager will ask you to complete a corporate content questionnaire, so the GDS content team can write the ‘About us’ page and corporate information for your organisation. See the Department for Business Innovation and Skills’ ‘About us’ page for an example of these types of pages.
The National Archives (TNA)
Typically, The National Archives require 8 weeks notice if you need them to record a copy of your website. If your website isn’t regularly copied by the National Archives, you should order one as soon as you start planning to build your GOV.UK content.
Images are only used on GOV.UK when they give useful additional context or information. All images should be 960 pixels wide by 640 pixels high at 72 DPI, so you should start thinking about the images you have available and whether they will be suitable for GOV.UK. Read more about images in the style guide.
Transition stage 4: content build and publish
Small agencies will take around 4 weeks to build content; medium organisations will take about 6 weeks; large ones will take up to 8 weeks. These cycle times should be used as a guide only, as priorities and resourcing can change.
At this stage, GDS will:
- give you access to Trello, which is the tool you’ll use to manage your content’s workflow
- work with you to manage resources and set weekly or fortnightly goals (known as ‘sprints’) to ensure your site transitions on time
- provide feedback during the sprint process to ensure the correct format types are being used and to check that content has been written according to the GOV.UK style guide
- build your landing page and corporate information - you’ll be asked to fact check these pages
Mappings and redirection
Most agencies will rely on the Transition Tool to support redirection. It ensures bookmarks or saved links relating to your old site will automatically redirect to equivalent content on GOV.UK following transition.
During content planning and build you should record your existing website’s URLs as they relate to new content you build for GOV.UK. This will help in the redirection process.
Old content that does not transition to GOV.UK will be available on The National Archives website.
Tell your staff and stakeholders
If you haven’t already done so, now is the right time to tell your staff and stakeholders that you will be moving to GOV.UK.
GDS has created some campaign graphics to help you spread the word:
You should ensure call centre and correspondence teams are aware that move is imminent, so they can update their scripts.
Transition stage 5: launch
At GDS we consider your launch or ‘go live’ date to be the date when all of your site redirects are in place and pointing to your new presence on GOV.UK. So it is the date when users are no longer able to navigate to your old site and are directed to GOV.UK.
However, your launch is not the date when you first publish content to GOV.UK. In fact, it’s best to avoid what we refer to as a Big Bang Release. Best practice is to publish content as you build it so that everything is not released at once.
At this stage GDS will:
- help to agree your launch date and time
- provide a technical contact to work with your technical team regarding DNS changes
- ensure a smooth launch and help to trouble-shoot any issues on launch day
Please be sure that you have enough editorial and contact centre staff available on launch day and for at least a week after launch. You will get an increase in requests and will have to address mistakes and broken links quickly.
After transition: business as usual
During this stage GDS will:
- carry out spot checks of your content and provide guidance to help you make improvements, if necessary
- ensure you can monitor and take actions on feedback from GOV.UK users
- provide training for new members of your editorial team
- ensure you have access to GOV.UK Google analytics for monitoring the performance of your content
If you want to contact GDS about changes to content on GOV.UK, or if you have a support issue, you can raise a ZenDesk ticket.
GOV.UK is visited every week by around 8 million people, who use it to get the information they need from government. This could be anything from how to pay their car tax online to how to start a business.
It’s been designed to make it as easy as possible for users to get what they need, without having to visit lots of different websites.
- simpler: information, like bank holiday dates, has been presented simply, so users don’t have to scan lots of data
- clearer: the content is written in jargon-free plain English (this isn’t ‘dumbing down’; this is opening up government information to all)
- faster: testing has shown that users find information and complete tasks on GOV.UK around a minute quicker than on its predecessor (Directgov)
GDS uses agile methodologies and these have influenced the GOV.UK design principles. The site is constantly tested with users and their feedback results in changes being made to the design and functionality of the site.
A GDS project team has been formed to look at the needs of thousands of specialist and professional users and make improvements to browse, search and format types on GOV.UK.
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