How to publish on GOV.UK

Reviewing and publishing content

Information about the workflow in Whitehall publisher, and how to review documents including the '2i' process.

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Workflow

Most content in Whitehall publisher follows a workflow from ‘draft’, to ‘submitted’ to ‘published’. Some pages don’t have a workflow, which means changes appear instantly on the site (you’ll see a warning when this is going to happen).

When a document is ready to be published press ‘submit’ for a second person to review it against the style guide and for errors. This is often called a second pair of eyes or ‘2i’ review.

An editor or managing editor can then edit, publish, schedule or reject it. You’ll need to let them know when you submit something for review - the system doesn’t automatically notify anyone.

You’ll receive an email when your document is either published or rejected. A rejected document goes back to draft status and after further editing you can submit it for review again.

Publishing times

New content (the first edition of a page) goes live on GOV.UK as soon as it’s been published.

Changes to existing content can take up to 5 minutes for:

Changes to all other content formats will take up to 15 minutes.

Content which has been schedule published will go live at the time specified, without any delay.

Don’t use or publicise the URL for a page before it’s been published as it will cause a ‘page not found (404)’ message to be displayed.

Checking a page has updated

If a page doesn’t seem to have updated, it may be because you’re looking at a cached version. The time this takes to update is controlled by your IT team.

You can check if a page has updated by:

  • using a smartphone or non-networked machine to access the page, instead of your desktop computer
  • doing a ‘cache-bust’ by putting a question mark and some random text after the page URL you’re looking at - for example www.gov.uk/government/organisations?THISISRANDOMTEXT

Never share or publicise cache-busted URLs.

A 2i checklist

If you’re asked to review a document you should check that the content:

Titles must be:

  • clear and specific
  • optimised for search
  • under 65 characters (including spaces)
  • unique within the site (check search results on GOV.UK)
  • in sentence case
  • written in plain English (no jargon)

Summaries should:

  • expand on the title without repeating it
  • explain the point of the page and make sense in search results
  • be written in full sentences (with a verb and a full stop)
  • be front-loaded with words users are likely to search for
  • be written in plain English (no jargon)
  • explain any acronyms in the title
  • be fewer than 140 characters (including spaces)

Body text should:

  • begin with what’s most important to users (not to government)
  • be concise and easy to scan (with sub-heads every 3-5 paragraphs)
  • be written in plain English (no jargon) and easy to understand
  • use short sentences - no more than 25 words
  • define acronyms and abbreviations the first time they’re used (with Markdown)
  • explain any technical terms
  • be shorter than 500 words, if possible

Remember:

  • always check the style guide
  • bullet points have a lead in line and start with a lower case letter
  • numbers are written as numerals (except ‘one’)
  • don’t use full stops in abbreviations or acronyms
  • describe the destination of any links (don’t use ‘click here’)
  • use ‘and’ rather than ‘&’, unless it’s a department’s logo image
  • don’t use bold, italics, CAPS, semicolons, underlining or exclamation marks!!!
  • check the formatting (Markdown) for headings, bullets and acronyms
  • government organisations are singular (eg ‘FCO is’, not ‘FCO are’)
  • use ‘to’ in date and time ranges, not hyphens or ‘/’
  • write email addresses in full, in lower case and as active links

Check in Whitehall publisher if:

  • content is tagged to the relevant policy
  • the policy area is correct
  • there are notes about who ‘owns’ the content
  • it’s a ‘silent’ update or has a clear change note
  • the publication date is correct (no embargo)
  • access is set correctly (limited if necessary)

Force publishing

In rare circumstances you may need to ‘force publish’ a document. For example, if a document needs to be published urgently and there is no editor available to review it (2i).

You’ll have to include a reason why you needed to force publish. GDS monitors the frequency of force publishing and the reasons given.

Documents that have been force published are flagged as ‘not reviewed’ and should be reviewed as soon as possible after publication. When an editor has reviewed the published document they can click on ‘looks good’.

Fact checking

You can share documents with colleagues who don’t have access to Whitehall publisher. For example, to ask people to comment on documents before they go live, or to ‘fact check’ them.

Click the ‘Fact checking’ tab on the right of any document and send your request to a colleague. You need to send a separate fact checking request to each colleague.

Include the generic GOV.UK username and password in your instructions. They will need this to see the page you’re sending.

Your colleague will get an email with a link to the page in Whitehall publisher where they can leave comments. When they’ve checked the page and clicked finish, you’ll receive an email with a link to the page in publisher to see their comments.