The information in this blogpost may now be out of date. See the current GOV.UK content and publishing guidance.
GOV.UK has different content areas that deal with different audiences and topics.
One term we use a lot when talking about these different areas is 'mainstream' content. Basically, this refers to anything that falls under the services and information section of GOV.UK.
But what determines whether a piece of content is mainstream, or whether it should live elsewhere, such as the departments and policy section of the site?
Broadly speaking, mainstream content must:
- be something the government actually does (eg passports or driving licences)
- be aimed at the general public or small to medium-sized businesses
- help the user complete a task or make a decision
- reflect the ‘here and now’ practical information people need
- only reflect upcoming legislation if it’s definitely happening and affects choices a user can make right now
- have a demonstrable user need (eg people are actively searching for it)
GDS content designers write mainstream content for GOV.UK. It then gets sent to the department or agency to make sure the facts and the process are right.
There are also reasons why content might not be suitable for mainstream. For example, it must not:
- be aimed at a small, extremely specific or niche audience
- require expert knowledge to understand and take action
- duplicate content better served by other organisations (eg charities, NHS, Citizens Advice Bureau)
- give advice or offer opinions
- ‘sell’ policy or promote government initiatives
That doesn't rule it out of GOV.UK entirely though, it may find a home on the site as detailed guidance, corporate information or maybe a campaign page if it fits there instead.
Keep it relevant
These principles have remained relatively static over the last couple of years, but we're always checking they still apply.
For example, we originally decided that it was appropriate to have some content for farmers in mainstream (as distinct from agricultural workers), but we've since changed that point of view because it doesn't directly affect the general public and does require some expertise to understand.
Once that content finds a new home on GOV.UK, we can redirect the URLs to make sure users always end up where they need to be and make sure they're reading the right content for their needs.