https://insidegovuk.blog.gov.uk/2013/10/18/goodbye-series-hello-collections/

Goodbye series, hello collections

The information in this blogpost may now be out of date.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

From today, the "series" format in the departments and policy section will metamorphose to become "collections". This post contains essential information for publishers about the change.

What has changed

Far more than just a name change, we have completely remodelled how the format works.

Whereas "series" was coded as a distinct format, the new "collection" format which replaces it is based on the same, editionable document format that we are using for publications, policies and announcements.

This delivers the following benefits, all of which are things departments have told us they wanted:

  • workflow, so that collections can be prepared in draft, submitted for review by a 2nd pair of eyes, scheduled for future publication and revised with full audit trail. (Previously changes to "series" went live immediately, which was difficult to work with)
  • editorial remarks, so you can communicate internally about changes made to a collection
  • the ability to feature collections on organisation pages. (Later, we will extend this to topics too)
  • the ability to unpublish collections and redirect their URLs. (Initially this is by request to GDS, but we are will roll out self-service tools very soon)
  • the ability to share collections between organisations, so that for example we can have a single collection listing all departments' organisation charts
  • the ability to tag collections to policies and topics (the information doesn't yet display on the public site, but it will)

Sharing the same code as other document formats also helps simplify the software, and means that collections will now benefit from the same ongoing improvements as those formats.

All existing series will be automatically migrated to the new collections format (at new, shorter URLs) and the previous URLs will be redirected.

What the change means for publishers

On the public site, the name is the only visible sign of change. But things will be a little different in the publishing tool. Here's three things you need to know.

  1. There will no longer be a "document series" option in the main menu. Instead, "document collection" has been added as one of the formats you can create from the main "create document" button.
  2. To find existing collections, filter by "document collection" on the documents tab.
  3.  To add a new document to an existing collection, you now need to create a new edition of the collection. This is an extra step but - we hope - worth it to get the benefits listed above.

What collections are for

Collections are for grouping related documents which users need to find together. Within a collection page documents can be further grouped by theme.

A good example of a collection is the National standards for driving and riding which collects together all the  documents that set out standards on what it takes to be a safe and responsible driver and rider. The documents are grouped by kind of vehicle, eg standards for car and light van, or standards for moped and motorcycle. Another example is the National Curriculum collection which brings together all the documents from the recently published curriculum.

You might want to review your existing collections and see whether you can make them more user-friendly by adding sub-headings and grouping the documents.

Future plans (and why the name changed)

In future we plan to develop the publication format so that the current and all past issues of a regularly issued publication (eg a monthly release or an annual report) can be grouped onto the single publication page. This will mean "collections" can be freed up to be much more useful thematic groupings of related content.

We also plan to provide a route to browse to collections from topics and organisation pages.

We will be updating editorial guidance soon on how to get the best out of the collection format.

20 comments

  1. Tim Blackwell

    I think the changes described here are sorely needed. If implemented and used well, they have the potential to vastly improve the UX on .GOV.UK.

    It would be good for un-publishing to have a public audit trail. .GOV.UK is not the only central government website to which this applies!

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  2. Greg Morgan

    Good news on these changes Alice. Will we have the ability in future to reorder publications and categories on collection pages manually? That would be extremely helpful.

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    • Alice Newton

      Hi Greg,

      We're currently working on allowing reordering of publications within a group on collection pages, so you should see that feature delivered soon. Our initial conversations with editors suggested that reordering the groups themselves wasn't needed, but we may revisit that issue because you're one of a few people who have now asked for it.

      Thanks,
      Alice

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      • Cass Martin

        Just a further plea for the ability to reorder groups within collections. This would be really helpful in allowing us as editors to prioritise content. Thanks.

        Cass

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  3. Graham Lee

    I can see how it's useful to bring together a set of related publications, but do people search for 'collection' or understand what this means?

    'Collection' could conjure up art galleries, greatest hit compilations, DVD boxsets, stamp collections, etc - objects gathered for "study, exhibition or personal pleasure" (Merriam-Webster), which isn't really the case for government information!

    There's also the issue of other 'collections' covered on GOV.UK - tax, debt, data, rubbish, recycling, charitable, etc - which will mean that the term will be confusing in some contexts.

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    • Neil Williams

      Naming things is *really* hard. Got a better suggestion, Graham?

      We're not indexing the name of the format in search so the question of them searching for a collection is non-issue, I think. Users will search for the thing they need, and they may find it either via the collection it belongs to, or find it on its own and have the option to zoom out and see related content via the collection.

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      • Stephen Edwards

        Naming is difficult, but do we need to display the "collection" name to users at all? Naming the different publishing content types may be necessary for a publisher, but I find the concept slightly confusing for formats that are not a distinctive content type (like a consultation or news). To a user isn't it is just a web page with links on it that gives them what they want?

        At the weekend I looked at the mainstream page: https://www.gov.uk/annual-test-for-lorries-buses-and-trailers and clicked the link to "testing manuals" at the bottom of this page. I initially hesitated when I saw "collections" thinking i'd ended up on the wrong page.

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  4. Michael Williams

    Hi - Please see ticket 323002. Saved but unpublished versions of new collection URLs are appearing in search results (higher than the published URL) and giving users 404s.

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    • Graham Francis

      Thanks Michael - I've raised this as a bug.

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    • Neil Williams

      A fix for this will be deployed to production in the next hour

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  5. Michael Williams

    If we publish a new document that’s tagged to a topic, interested users are alerted – by email, for example. If we add the new document to a collection, should we add a public change note to the collection to explain the addition?

    If we do, and the collection is also tagged to the topic, users will be alerted twice about the same change. If we don’t there will be no public record of the change to the collection.

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  6. Neil Williams

    Hi Michael

    When adding a document to a collection, you should most definitely not enter a change note on the document. Change notes should only be used for substantive updates to the content. (In any case, you don't edit the document to add it to a collection, so there is no need!)

    You should, however, add a change note on the collection. It is the collection that has been substantively updated (by adding a document to it), not the document itself.

    Currently, updates to document collections are not included in the email alerts for updates by topic, organisation or policy. (If that's not your experience, it's a bug - please report it as such using the support form). We will in future add the ability to subscribe to email alerts on an individual collection, so users can "watch" a collection and get alerted when there's new stuff to see.

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  7. E.A. Brown

    Hi Neil,
    Can you please update your instructions about series (under tagging and associations) to reflect the changes?

    http://alphagov.github.io/inside-government-admin-guide/creating-documents/add-associations.html

    This page will require revising too:
    http://alphagov.github.io/inside-government-admin-guide/organisations-groups/document-series.html

    Agile management is light on documentation, but your users depend on these instructions, particularly when changes occur, and you cannot find the series > collection features where you found them earlier that day.

    Cheers.

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    • Alice Newton

      Thanks Elizabeth, we'll make sure the guidance is updated.

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  8. Sarah

    Hi, not sure if this is the right place to ask but with the new format it gives us the option to make adding documents to a collection a major change: should we be using this when updating collections and does it trigger an alert in the way that it does if you publish a major change with other content types?

    Thanks for your help

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    • Alice Newton

      Hi Sarah,

      If you select major change on any content type, it will trigger an alert. At some point we want to add the functionality for people to receive updates from a specific collection - however, at the moment, I'd recommend that if you're just adding a document to a collection, select minor change. Followers of your organisation will have already received an email when you created the new publication, and won't require a duplicate alert. However, if you're adding a new group to a collection, select major change.

      Thanks,
      Alice

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  9. Alan

    'separating document series from individual departments, so they can be more easily shared between organisations and tagged to topics'

    Is it still the intention to remove collections from individual departments?

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    • Alice Newton

      Hi Alan,

      We have already delivered our plans to separate collections from individual departments: unlike series, collections do not contain the name of the department in the URL (e.g. https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/national-curriculum), and can be tagged to topics as well as multiple orgs.

      Our content team are starting to work on cross-departmental collections for things like transparency data, and we hope that departments will partner up to create collections together where useful.

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  10. Lesley Mayfield

    Hi

    It says above "the ability to tag collections to policies and topics (the information doesn't yet display on the public site, but it will)". I've recently created a number of collections and the policy details aren't showing so I'm assuming this isn't available yet, when will it be?

    Thank you for your help.

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    • Alice Newton

      Hi Lesley,

      Thanks for letting us know that this feature is important to you. Showing topic and policy associations on collections is in our backlog and you can follow it here: https://www.pivotaltracker.com/story/show/68534480. We don't have specific delivery dates, but we make sure that work is completed in priority order.

      Best wishes,
      Alice

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