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Policy pages: maintaining consistency across departments

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GOV.UK has over 116,000 items of content in departmental and policy areas. It’s vital that each one of these meets a user need and doesn’t duplicate any other content item. Maintaining consistency across policies and departments is essential to earn users’ trust.

Policies on GOV.UK represent the government’s view. One of the most important jobs for content designers before launch was working with 24 departments to write policies that state the government’s view clearly and simply.

In cases where policies cover similar ground, for example  Supporting the Falkland Islanders’ right to self-determination and Supporting the Overseas Territories, we made sure that the content didn’t overlap and the information was clear, accurate and relevant for users.

Policies with multiple owners

Before GOV.UK brought all government departments on to one website, different departments had their own content about the same issue. On GOV.UK they have a shared policy page which explains what the government as a whole is doing.

This means that users no longer have to look in lots of different places for information and they don’t need to know what every departments’ responsibilities are. Cross-departmental co-operation reduces the risk of out-of-date or incomplete information appearing on different pages.

Policy pages in context

We’ve previously described how policy pages provide an essential context for the news, speeches, and publications on the rest of the site.

The Falkland Islands referendum in March 2013 inspired a number of news stories and speeches on GOV.UK. Each piece of this new content links to one or both of the policies Supporting the Falkland Islanders’ right to self-determination and Supporting the Overseas Territories.

The policies got several hundred views in a 3-day period at the time of the referendum. This context demonstrates the value of having a single, authoritative public statement of the government’s policy to which everyone can refer and link, rather than having to search across a range of sites and document types to find the information they want.

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  1. Comment by Suzanne Amos posted on

    Sounds like joined-up government finally.

    Sounds like we need to do exactly the same thing with 'guidance' documents for specialist audiences.

    At the moment there are 300 agencies busy rewriting their guidance content for GOV.UK. And some of the content overlaps. It needs managing.

  2. Comment by Stephen Edwards posted on

    Hi Suzanne,

    With the HMRC transition, this is exactly what we are aiming to do with specialist audiences. We start the process with joint user needs workshops on obvious overlap areas, such as HMRC and the Charities Commission, focusing on the user needs rather than the departmental needs. We are also working on a much more powerful taxonomy to allow content to be tagged to topics. Even in limited testing this is highlighting duplication of content between departments and inconsistencies which can then be resolved. We will be blogging more about this specific work for tax on the HMRC transition blog ( over the next week and Ben's blog post on the Inside GOV.UK blog:

    Stephen Edwards
    Product Manager - HMRC Transition