The information in this blogpost may now be out of date. See the current GOV.UK content and publishing guidance.
Now that agencies and ALBs are beginning to create detailed guides, based on their validated user needs, we thought it would be useful to make it clear when and how you can use the format.
Please use the detailed guide format (example) for all web-based guidance for practitioner and professional audiences.
Note that guidance for mainstream audiences (citizens and any general audience) is created by GDS and then fact-checked by the agency or ALB.
Any guidance you currently publish in a file format (eg PDF factsheets or guides) should be created on GOV.UK using the 'publication' content type, sub-type 'guidance'(eg: www.gov.uk/government/publications/dbs-update-service-applicant-guide). There is no need to duplicate a publication with a separate detailed guide (but you can link to them from other detailed guides).
There are a few specific instances (exceptions) in which you would create an HTML publication of sub-type ‘guidance’. These are explained at the bottom.
Criteria for detailed guides
We’ve published a blogpost that explains the criteria for detailed guides. A detailed guide:
- usually answers a specific, task-orientated user need
- addresses professionals and practitioners
- is something government has a duty to provide
- is written and updated by agencies and departments themselves
We’ve broadened the criteria to include one more option:
- contains information that a user needs in order to understand and contextualise future tasks
If your content does not fit the criteria, you will find that it is most likely:
- a list or a directory (we are addressing this format need with a new format called ‘finder’)
- a policy paper or policy supporting detail
- a document collection
Browsing to and searching for detailed guides
Detailed guides have a prominent place in the GOV.UK architecture. Users will find they:
- show up in the specialist categories that are part of the mainstream structure of the site (eg: https://www.gov.uk/browse/justice/rights/policing) - the positioning of these categories will improve soon
- show in categories that will be listed on topic and organisation pages (you can add these to your pages if you have not already done so)
- return in the main GOV.UK search
- show up in collections
Length and style
We expect detailed guides to be no longer than they need to be. If guides are written to a single, clearly defined user need, they are likely to be quite short and succinct.
There is a whole section in the style guide that explains the tone and content of detailed guides. The most common problem is that the guide does not address the user need, or only starts to address it late on in the guide. Information about the history of the guidance, the reasons for it or the policy objectives, should not be included.
We are monitoring existing detailed guides to ensure they meet a user need and are written to GOV.UK style. Our audit of existing detailed guides identified those that did not fit the format: editors should have removed these and redirected to the content in the correct format. We’ll be checking this shortly. There is also an audit of quality which is underway.
You’ll need to enter the user need for each new guide as you create it (or when you re-save an existing guide).
Editors from agencies that have created user needs during user needs workshops will be able to enter their validated user needs when creating detailed guides. Editors in departments will have to enter a user need when they create a detailed guide, and these, too, will need to be validated in due course.
Publications, sub-type ‘guidance’
If you have an existing manual or handbook that you distribute, or guidance that you issue in a published form (as hard copy), you need to create a publication of sub-type guidance.
Some agencies publish the majority of their guidance in PDF format. You may wish to keep this approach as it is what your users prefer, or you may want to move to a web-based approach (ie detailed guides) where you can update the content more dynamically (without the need to reissue a new version of the PDF). Speak to your transition manager if you want to know more about these options.
HTML publications are presented on GOV.UK just like other publications (PDFs, Word documents etc) except they are created in HTML.
You can use the HTML publication option to publish an e-book in place of a printed manual, or an HTML version of PDF content such as a factsheet or leaflet. First, create a publication page and then add the attachment as an HTML publication.
Your HTML publication will have a publication date and sometimes a reference number or ISBN number. You shouldn’t update it in the same way as you would update web-based guidance, because it will need to be re-issued as a new, dated version.
Your format decisions
The reason we have several options is that these different approaches suit different organisations for different reasons. If you have any questions about the format that would best suit your guidance, please get in touch with GDS through your transition manager or the support form you will find on your Publisher dashboard.