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Editorial reviews and mainstream content

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The information in this blogpost may now be out of date. See the current GOV.UK content and publishing guidance.

The editorial review or 'second pair of eyes' (2i) function is a vital part of the publishing process for mainstream content (ie citizen and business-focused) on GOV.UK.

2i sees every piece of content before it gets published and the role is there to preserve the style and sanity of the site.

As part of the workflow, 2i sits between the content designer doing the analysis and writing, and then either the content getting fact checked by the policy owners, or it being published.

Only one person will ever 2i a piece a content at any one time, but there are sometimes several people working as 2i across all mainstream content.

There are 7 key parts to the 2i role.

Check the update matches the request

Sounds simple, but an item in review can range from correcting a typo to a brand-new 12 chapter guide. 2i first needs to check anything that's new and compare it to where the original request came from. It could be a Zendesk ticket or a task in Pivotal, but 2i will go back and make sure that the original scope has been fulfilled.

Does it makes sense?

2i has to read the whole content item thoroughly, even if only a tiny part of it was changed. Will it still make sense to the user? Things in the real world may have changed since it was last published and we may need to think a bit more to see if any other changes are needed.

One small change can also cause other problems in the piece (or elsewhere on the site) that might not be easily spotted. It's the butterfly effect of changing content.

Style is everything

Again, 2i doesn't just check the bit of content that was changed; the whole piece gets checked. House style develops over time, but sometimes we have to react quickly and make a decision. It's easy to miss a small error in style among the intricacies of something like accounts and tax returns for private limited companies.

It's this part of the 2i role that gives us consistency across all mainstream content, which is easy to miss the importance of. 2i has to make sure that the work from a multitude of content designers all looks and feels like it's written by one person. The user doesn't want to worry about bouncing from one style of writing to another as they move around the site.

Does it fit?

Content rarely lives in isolation, so how does this updated piece of content fit with everything else? Again, things in the real world move on while we're busy working on GOV.UK and even an innocent looking update could duplicate, contradict or crossover with other content.

2i needs a good knowledge of everything that's on the site (and anything that's going to be) to make sure these conflicts don't happen.

Make adjustments, make notes

After all of the above, there could be some changes to the piece that 2i thinks are needed. These could be small and rejecting them from review and back to the content designer might be an unnecessary delay for everyone involved.

2i will make any small adjustments needed and make sure they record any notes on what they've done. It's better than slowing down the velocity of the team.

Make clear suggestions

2i can easily see up to 50 or more items a day and to make all the adjustments needed on those items would take forever.

So, if they're too far-reaching or complicated, 2i will have no choice but to send the piece back to the content designer with notes, questions or suggestions. These will help in making adjustments before the piece is submitted for review again.

When it's all said and done

Once 2i is happy with the piece, it's pushed along in the workflow. If the item is ready to go live, then 2i updates any Zen tickets appropriately and hits that big green 'Publish' button.

Or the piece may need to be sent to another government department or subject matter expert for a fact check. But that's a whole other story...

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