The information in this blogpost may now be out of date. See the current GOV.UK content and publishing guidance.
The guys in the content team have put together the following ‘cheat sheet’ guide to content formats, to help all publishers to choose the appropriate format for their content.
Like everything else it’s a work in progress, and will evolve based on your feedback, and as the product evolves.
(With thanks to Clare, Michael and others in the content team for extracting this from my brain and writing it more clearly.)
Detailed guides answer a specific user need for detailed information, and usually end in a user action with government. They’re for a specialist or professional audience.
They're for guidance that government has a duty to provide, not for general advice and should not be used as a last resort for content that doesn’t fit into other format types. They often provide further detail on the subjects covered at GOV.UK ‘mainstream’ (as opposed to Departments and policy).
Publications that are about the setting and delivery of government policy. Includes white papers, strategies, operational plans, action plans, implementation plans, etc. Excludes consultations, research and impact assessments.
Cost-benefit analyses and other assessments of the impact of proposed initiatives, or changes to regulations or legislation. Can be included as part of a consultation or can be a standalone publication.
Guidance material that has been produced as a stand-alone publication rather than as web-original content in a detailed guide. Includes manuals, handbooks, statutory guidance and other publications that offer advice.
For pro-forma or forms that need to be completed by the user (either online or in hard copy). Can include attachments which provide guidance purely on how to fill in specific forms (ie, no need to create a separate ‘guidance’ publication for any guidance that belongs with the form).
Official statistics, of the kind governed by the UK Statistics Authority and produced by members of the Government Statistical Service. Use for a statistical release - ie closely related data for one specific time frame, not to be revised (use the ‘statistical datasets’ content type for regularly updated ‘live data’).
Official statistics that have been produced in accordance with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics, which is indicated using the National Statistics quality mark. See ‘statistics’ (above) for other attributes.
Research and analysis
Research findings. Can be conducted by government, commissioned by government or independent of government.
A publication about what the organisation does (eg business plans, annual reports, accounts), or any plans that affect the organisation (eg structural reform plans, efficiency reviews). These are shown automatically on the organisation’s ‘What we do’ page’.
Data that organisations are required to make available to the public. Use for a release of data for a specific time frame; ie put each month’s or quarter’s release of each type on a publication page, and group them into series. Routine releases which do not require an FOI request. Usually comprises attached CSV files. Includes: staff survey results, departmental spending, salaries, contracts let, meetings with ministers and so on.
Includes treaties and memoranda of understanding between the UK and other countries.
Responses to Freedom of Information requests.
Reports commissioned from independent bodies (ie non-governmental).
Ministerial or departmental responses (eg to campaign letters), announcements or statements. Regularly issued circulars or bulletins (eg fire service circulars), official correspondence to professionals (eg ‘dear chief planning officer’ letters). Letters to individuals or organisations that are published to share with a wider audience than their original recipient. Online versions of e-bulletins or newsletters.
Leaflets, PR, posters, etc.
Consultation (including responses)
A consultation is defined as 'a document which requires collective agreement across government.' This includes things like formal consultations, calls for evidence and requests for people's views or feedback on a specific question. All stages of a consultation (including the government response) are added to the original consultation record as they are completed. The consultation’s response form (if available) should be added as an attachment.
Statistical data set
Live statistical data. In most cases this is frequently updated, sometimes continually added to (with the most recent data appearing at the top of the list of attachments), sometimes by replacing the attachment (each department must be consistent in their use of the dataset).
Collections are for grouping related documents which users need to find together. Within a collection page documents can be further grouped by theme.
Outlines how a department is planning to achieve a specific outcome. Must use approved headings and structure. Involves departments and agencies working together to manage content. Requests for new policies need to be submitted through Zendesk. The lead department for the policy should be contacted to agree amends/updates to existing content.
NB can be created only after policy cover sheet is created/saved; top tab appears for users who want to know more about the actions listed on the cover sheet. Should provide supporting detail about the issue and actions (eg, if the actions include a programme costing £x and running for 6 months, the detail page should provide further information about who is involved, what they are spending the money on and how). Must not be used as a dumping ground for material that doesn’t fit under other headings. If appropriate, include a supplementary detail page called ‘evidence’ or ‘research’; this can be used to present the most important research and statistics relating to the policy.
Description and contact details of the team working on a policy. Appears as a link in the metadata on the policy and in the top tab for the department/agency.
Policy advisory group
Description, contact details and attached meeting papers of a group or committee which has input to a policy. Often but not always made up of external experts or stakeholders. The members are not modelled as people and roles, merely listed in the description or in an attached file.
For verbatim reports of exactly what the speaker said. Internally referred to as ‘checked against delivery’.
Draft speech for what the speaker was supposed to say. Internally known as ‘check against delivery’.
If full speech is not available (eg topics covered, cue cards).
Written statement (to Parliament)
Statement submitted in writing to Parliament.
Speech Oral statement (to Parliament)
Statement given verbally to Parliament.
For text of press releases unedited (ie as sent directly to the media). Also use for official statements by department spokesperson or minister (unless they are parliamentary statements, which should use speech format).
For giving users information they can act on or information they need and can't get from other sources. Digital-first document, written for the web. For detailed guidance about news stories see the style guide.
Government response to coverage in the media.
A page/section for each department that includes:
- What we do
- Who we are
- Corporate information
- Corporate reports
A particular position in government, what duties that role entails and its responsibilities. Content kept separate from the person fulfilling that role. Used for senior leadership team only (all ministers, permanent secretaries, all members of the highest tier of governance boards, other public leadership roles such as MOD military chiefs, DFT traffic commissioners, diplomatic posts etc).
The name of the individual in a particular role, along with their biographical information and photograph. Used for senior leadership team only (all ministers, permanent secretaries, all members of the highest tier of governance boards, other public leadership roles such as MOD military chiefs, DFT traffic commissioners, diplomatic posts etc).
Personal information charter
Outlines what standards departments follow when asking for personal information, and what they expect of users when collecting information. Required under Data Protection Act.
Lists the classes of information the organisation routinely makes available. Every organisation is required to have one under the Freedom of Information Act.
Required by the Parliamentary Ombudsman.
Optional. A place to describe the boards and other governance committees that run the organisation, and to attach their meeting papers (meeting papers are not publications). Governance groups will be displayed here automatically in future, but for now you can link inline to them like the MOD is doing.
Statistics at x
Optional (depending on org). Forward look of statistical releases (upcoming publication dates). Concise overview of the kinds of statistics a department collects. Information about how the org complies with stats legislation and code of practice. Information on making an enquiry.
Information for potential suppliers about procurement processes. Related competitiveness/cost-saving objectives and/or measures. Procurement contacts.
Working for x
Optional (depending on org). Direct links to job listings. Equality and diversity policies.
Our energy use
Links to department’s energy use data (usually central headquarters). Concise overview of measures taken to improve efficiency.
Welsh language scheme
The government’s policy on publishing information in Welsh when pertaining to services provided in Wales. Required under Welsh Language Act.
Use for real examples that help users understand either a process that’s covered on GOV.UK or an important aspect of government policy that’s covered on GOV.UK. Only for content that relates directly to guidance or policy content on GOV.UK – and adds something really important to it, or if it’s going to be permanently useful (situations with only a temporary interest are better dealt with in a press release or news story).
High profile unit of an organisation
Not an actual organisation, but a unit within an actual organisation that has sufficient public profile and publishing activity in its own right to warrant its own org-lite presence, nested beneath its parent organisation. Use sparingly, and clear with GDS senior editors before using. Further criteria here.
A collection of senior leaders who have people and role profiles on GOV.UK. Use this to show memberships of top-level governance boards in an organisation.
Topical event page
Can only be created by agreement with GDS. A large scale event that the government is responsible for/involved in. Cross-departmental (so just using homepages is not appropriate). There is likely to be sufficient material to provide frequent announcements/publications/other updates. Distinct from a campaign, eg www.gov.uk/g8.
Can only be created by agreement with GDS. Specific areas or subjects of government concern, under which are grouped related policies and other documents. Pre-defined by GOV.UK central team; not to be added by departments. Cross-departmental.
Fatality notice (Ministry of Defence only)
News-style content type announcing the death of a member of the armed forces; part-obituary, part-biography, often featuring statements from family, friends and/or fellow comrades-in-arms. (Can only be created/edited by writers and editors in MOD.)