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Requesting downtime messages for services

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The information in this blogpost may now be out of date.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

Downtime messages for services should always be requested through your single point of contact as a content request. This can be downtime for:

  •  new services with a GOV.UK start and done page
  • other services that we link to from GOV.UK

You should also add a downtime message to the service itself where possible.

We usually like to give users 1 day of advance warning of the downtime.

When to request downtime

Please try to give us at least 1 week's notice of downtime - this is particularly important if  multiple services are affected (e.g. HMRC or UKVI).

Although we may be able to pick up downtime requests submitted after that, we cannot guarantee it.

How to request downtime

You need to tell us:

  • what content needs the message (and the place on the page if it’s still an external service)
  • when the service is going down (both date and time)
  • when the service is going back up (both date and time - if possible)
  • whether or not the downtime is confirmed

The reason we have such a standard format is that it allows us to update the downtime messages really quickly.

Standard downtime messages

We use standard wording for downtime messaging. This means that the messages across the entire site are consistent. Almost all downtime messages take this format:

This service will be unavailable from [date and time] to [date and time].

Sometimes when a service is down and you don’t know when it might be up again, we use one of the following:

  • This service is currently unavailable.
  • This service will be unavailable from [date and time].

Occasionally downtime will only affect part of a service. We try to add this to the downtime message where possible.

When we can add downtime messages

As most downtime is scheduled, we can make the changes as part of our regular sprint and schedule to publish them at anytime.

When services are down unexpectedly, we can still add messages during daytime working hours. Out of hours downtime is covered in section 23 of GOV.UK support requests: our processes and response times.

When we don’t add downtime messages

We generally don’t add downtime messages if:

  • the downtime is very short - under 2 hours (unless you send us data showing it'd affect a high number of users)
  • it’s requested too late
  • there may be intermittent problems but no expected downtime
  • the service is only partially down - the service should present the downtime message in the appropriate place

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