Transition content to GOV.UK

How government organisations can work with the Government Digital Service (GDS) to close government websites and move content to GOV.UK.

Prepare for transition

Talk to the Government Digital Service (GDS) before you start your transition project. You can either:

GDS will help you understand whether your content meets the GOV.UK proposition. They can also help you with any questions about transition.

Get internal approval

You can ask GDS for a business case template for transition. This will help you show the benefits of transition, including cost savings.

Prepare your team

If you need new staff to work on transition, you can ask GDS for templates to help you advertise on the Digital Marketplace. The templates are for recruiting content designers, delivery managers or a full transition team.

You’ll need to arrange training and request publisher accounts for anyone who does not already publish on GOV.UK. You cannot publish content on GOV.UK without this training.

Contact The National Archives

You’ll need to ask The National Archives to make a final copy of your website. This copy will remain on the UK Government Web Archive.

Email The National Archives to start this process. You need to ask them to record a copy of your old website 4 weeks before you intend to close it.

The National Archives\

Decide how to redirect your content

Start planning how you’ll redirect your old content to your new or archived content. You may be able to use the GOV.UK transition tool or set up redirects on your own server. Talk to GDS to agree the best way to do this.

Get a copy of your URLs

Create a list of all the URLs on your website that are being archived, including URLs of attachments such as PDFs and any short URLs. This will help you set up redirects later, and will also help you audit your content.

Audit your content

Before you start creating content for GOV.UK, you need to understand how your existing content is used.

Auditing your content includes things like investigating which content is:

  • the most used or has highest impact
  • out of date
  • duplicating content already on GOV.UK or elsewhere

The audit can help you decide what to publish on GOV.UK and help you prioritise your content. You can use the audit later when you’re validating your user needs.

You can audit your content using:

  • data from Google Analytics
  • user research (either doing new user research or looking at recent research)
  • other customer insights like call centre data or forums

Define your users and their needs

GOV.UK puts user needs first. Every piece of published content should meet a need that the public or businesses have of government.

Find out how to identify and write user needs.

One way you can identify, define and prioritise your user needs is to run a user needs workshop with your subject matter experts. You’ll need people who understand the content and its users to take part in the workshop.

Use the data, user research and other findings from your audit to check the user needs are not just your own assumptions.

You’ll use your user needs to help you write and structure content on GOV.UK.

Plan your content

Check if there’s content already on GOV.UK that meets the user needs you’ve identified. This could be content published by another government organisation.

If you need to publish new content on GOV.UK, use a content plan to help you keep track of what you’ll publish and in which content format.

The content plan can show things like:

  • which content is relevant to the user needs you identified
  • which content you will not publish on GOV.UK, based on your audit and user needs
  • if there are gaps in the content because all or part of a valid user need is not being met yet

You will probably not need to move everything to GOV.UK. A copy of your old website will be on the UK Government Web Archive.

You’ll also need to consider the GOV.UK formats you’ll use and who will manage the content.

GOV.UK content is managed in different ways. You’ll be able to publish things like corporate information, news stories, specialist guidance and policy papers yourself through Whitehall publisher. See the full list of Whitehall content formats.

Some of your guidance content might need to be published as mainstream guidance. This is written and maintained by the GDS content team.

Ask GDS for content advice if you’re not sure which format to use, or you think you need new or amended mainstream content.

If you have a user need that cannot be met on GOV.UK, you might have to explore other options, for example a marketing campaign or publishing data on

Set up an organisation homepage

Ask GDS for an organisation page if you are not already on the list of government departments, agencies and public bodies.

You cannot create or publish any content without an organisation page, so request this early in the project. GDS will create the page. You’ll need to edit and add content to the organisation page.

You can request a short URL for your organisation page.

Write and publish content on GOV.UK

When you’re writing the content, use the:

You can get help and advice about writing for GOV.UK.

Find out how to get content reviewed, approved and published in Whitehall publisher.

You can schedule content to go live at a certain date and time.

Set up redirects from your old content

You must set up redirects from your old website to the new content.

You can use the GOV.UK transition tool or set up redirects on your own server. Talk to GDS and agree the best way to do this.

If you’re using the GOV.UK transition tool

A GDS developer will set up your website in the transition tool. You’ll need to manage your own redirects and archive links in the tool.

Tell the developer:

  • any technical information they ask for about your website
  • who in your team needs access to the tool to manage redirects

You’ll need to create a spreadsheet of all your website’s URLs and where each one needs to redirect to.

Talk to GDS about how the spreadsheet should be formatted or to ask for any other help using the transition tool.

Set aside a good amount of time to create your spreadsheet. You may need to map all URLs individually which can take time - unless all or most of your old content can be redirected to one place.

You can redirect to:

  • a page on GOV.UK
  • a page on another government website
  • the UK Government Web Archive copy of the page

You’ll need to upload your spreadsheet to the transition tool when you have a final list of all the URLs you’re redirecting to.

You can add or change any redirects manually if you miss anything.

This transition tool guidance for GOV.UK developers explains the technical side of the tool. You’ll need to do steps 5 to 8.

Get ready for launch

Create a transition launch plan. The plan should cover who’s doing what, including testing any new content and checking the redirects work as expected.

You’ll be able to schedule most content to be published at a certain time. But you may need to publish some things manually, particularly if your organisation is new to GOV.UK.

You should change the status of your organisation page to live after you’ve tested the rest of the content.

On the day, if you’re using the GOV.UK transition tool, you’ll need someone with technical expertise to work with GDS to close your old website and switch on the redirects.

There is guidance on changing the DNS records and pointing the domain at GOV.UK.

After your launch

Once you have published your content on GOV.UK, monitor the user feedback on your new content. Make sure your organisation has access to GOV.UK Content Data and Google Analytics to monitor the performance of your content.

If you used the GOV.UK transition tool, you can use it to monitor traffic to your old URLs.

The transition tool analytics will show you:

  • if any of the archived pages are very popular - you should consider whether there are user needs you have not thought of
  • if any of the redirects are broken or missing - you should fix or add these

Find out more about using the transition tool after a website moves.

Published 1 November 2013
Last updated 25 October 2019 + show all updates
  1. Rewritten the page to remove out-of-date content and describe what government organisations should do if they want to transition content to GOV.UK.

  2. Added go-live checklist

  3. Added redirection/archive, communicating go-live, BAU attachments

  4. First published.