Skip to main content

Content guidance now in one place

Posted by: and , Posted on: - Categories: Best practice

Today we’ve published the beta of our revised publishing guidance in the new manuals format.

We’ve created a sub topic ‘Content and publishing’ which we recommend you bookmark. From there you can find 4 manuals:

  • Content design: planning, managing and writing content
  • How to publish on GOV.UK
  • Style guide
  • Support for government publishers

The aim is to make it simpler, clearer and faster for GOV.UK publishers to find information about style, content design and using Whitehall publisher.

We’ve published them as a beta because they’re very much a 'minimum viable product' at the moment. We’ve brought together all the existing guidance in one consistent format, and updated it where necessary. But we haven’t added anything new yet.

This is the first set of manuals to go live on GOV.UK. The format is in beta and new features are still being added - you can find out what’s next for manuals in the regular roadmap updates on this blog.

We want your feedback

So please go and explore the manuals. We’ll keep the current guidance live until we know the new version links together correctly and there are no major gaps. Then we’ll set up redirects and switch the old guides off.

Let us know what you think, good and bad, using the feedback form.

Testing, testing

We carried out user research at every stage of the project to test our assumptions and what we’ve been building. Editors and digital publishers across government have taken part in workshops, interviews, and card sorting exercises.

You’ve told us how you use our guidance and what you want from it, and said what you think about the structure, labelling and tone of the manuals.

A few main themes emerged which informed what we’ve done.

1. My job would be a lot easier if the guidance was in one place.

We heard this over and over again. It confirmed our assumption that the guidance is spread over too many places. And that this project to put all the guidance together was necessary.

2. Too much guidance is in the blogs and it’s hard to keep track of it.

From now on, guidance will only be published in the manuals. Blogs will be used to tell you about projects, what’s coming up and what’s new, and will link to the relevant guidance in a manual.

3. I want to know when something changes.

One of the reasons we picked the manuals format is because it has a great change notes feature so you can see exactly what changed and when. We’re also looking at how users can sign up for alerts.

Filling the gaps

We know there are gaps so that’s what we’ll be working on next. Every couple of weeks we’ll tell you what’s new and let you know what’s coming up for the next sprints. We’re prioritising guidance on content types as you’ve told us that’s really important. So the gaps we’ll be working on first are:

  • notices
  • decisions
  • manuals
  • regulations

If you think there’s a gap we should focus on next, leave a comment on this blog and we can prioritise according to demand.

Sharing and comments

Share this page


  1. Comment by Jeni Pitkin posted on

    At first glance this looks great. I'm really pleased to see it all in one place.

    I have a few suggestions of things that we can add so I'll use your feedback form for those. Regarding the suggestions, will these be reviewed by Government Digital Service and then added? Or could this be something that GOV.UK editors can get involved with and help update?

    • Replies to Jeni Pitkin>

      Comment by Lucy Hartley posted on

      Hi Jeni,

      I’m glad you think the guidance looks great, thanks for the feedback.

      Content designers in the Departments and policy team will review all comments and suggestions. We’ll then prioritise changes over the coming months.

      We’ll be blogging about things we’re adding so please do get involved by continuing to give us feedback on the blog, at content clinics and on Basecamp.


      • Replies to Lucy Hartley>

        Comment by Julie Walters posted on

        Hi, I don't know if you can help me but I am trying to find out how the Knowledge bank for the Department of Business Innovation and Skills is maintained. Is there anyway I can assess a trial to see how much information is available on the knowledge bank and how easy it is to keep this up to date and how relevant it is for business support. I am currently working on a Masters project to improve business support and advice in England and would appreciate any help regarding the database and the three knowledge managers working to maintain the knowledge bank.

  2. Comment by Ale del Cueto posted on

    Hi there

    Guidance on collection pages is missing from the list of content types, and I think that's a huge gap:

    Guidance on collections is also missing from the blog posts. This blogpost from October last year mentions updating editorial guidance on collections in the near future, but I am not sure that guidance was ever published:

    We think it is really important to get some guidance on how to use collections because we have noticed that everyone uses them differently. For example, we (DfE) use collections to bring together publications that are intended for the same audience, while other organisations use them to group publications that relate to the same topic (we rely on specialist browse to bring together publications about the same topic).

    Concrete, authoritative guidance on how we should use collections would be very welcome.

    Best wishes

    • Replies to Ale del Cueto>

      Comment by Lucy Hartley posted on

      Hi Ale,

      Thanks for commenting.

      There is some guidance about the document collections content type ( I assume you were looking for ‘collections’ rather than ‘document collections’? I’ll do some further user research on this as we may need to change the labelling in the guidance.

      We realise there is more we need to say about how to use document collections. This is a gap that we’ll be looking at in the coming months.

      If you have any more suggestions we would love to hear from you (


  3. Comment by Tom Ripley posted on

    I really like this new all-in-one-place format; thank you!

    The link down the right hand side of the 'New document' page in the Whitehall editor still goes to the old format style guide which, for the time being, is fine of course. But could this link be set to open in a new tab / window by default - it's currently too easy to click on the style guide link and navigate away from a work-in-proress document losing all edits since it was last saved.

    • Replies to Tom Ripley>

      Comment by Lucy Hartley posted on

      Hi Tom,

      Great idea. I've asked one of our developers to look into this.


  4. Comment by Andrew Robertson posted on

    Thanks for your efforts pulling this together. It will be great to have everything in one place! And great we can share with non-publishers so they can easily see and understand the guidelines.

    Could you briefly explain why you decided to publish these on the public GOV.UK website? As GOV.UK was intended for citizens and business to interact with government, I don't see how the publishing guidelines for government staff fulfills the GOV.UK proposition?

    Also, the blog says you've released 'beta' but the links I clicked on such as are marked 'alpha'?

    • Replies to Andrew Robertson>

      Comment by Lucy Hartley posted on

      Hi Andrew,

      Thanks for the feedback, glad you think it will help.

      We decided to publish these on GOV.UK because they fulfil a specialist user need:

      As a government publisher
      I need to know the best practice for web content design
      so that I can publish content on GOV.UK that users will understand and find simple to act on

      The guidance supports government transparency and the improving civil service digital by default agenda. And it’s all in the public domain already.

      Of course, the user need is greater than just government publishers as other organisations across the world are looking at how we’re doing things on GOV.UK.

      We’re aware that the banner on the manuals needs to be updated (from Alpha to Beta). This should hopefully be done soon.


  5. Comment by E. Brown posted on

    Regarding the new manuals format:

    Where is it available for use? I cannot find it in the list of documents to create.

    Where is the 'download the printable' or 'printable version' button, as described in the blogpost from June:

    4. There’s still a need for documents offline. One of the first comments on the excellent HTML Government Digital Strategy was “where can I download the PDF”. Users of all kinds of manuals say the same. They want to read documents offline or print them, whether on an eReader or a laptop connected to the internet, and a PDF is generally the most familiar way to do that. For now we’ll be adding a button to print the page which will make it clear to users that you can print and in the future we’d like to auto-generate PDFs.

    We're faced with requests to have a PDF where you can link to individual chapters, and have them open for you. The manuals format might cover this, but I cannot find the 'printable' version in the most recent examples.



    • Replies to E. Brown>

      Comment by Clare Lenton posted on


      The manuals format is only available via Specialist publisher so you won’t see it as an option in Whitehall publisher. If you think that you have content that meets the manuals criteria (outlined in the blog post from June) you need to raise a ticket in Zendesk. If we agree that a manual is the best format for your content you’ll be given access to specialist publisher to build your manual.

      The print button for manuals is on the developers backlog and should be available early next year.


  6. Comment by Ben Warner posted on

    Hi there,

    I think the new A to Z is a vast improvement on what you had before and I'm finding it much easier to use. I have a couple of comments on ommisions/things that could be clearer.

    Currently I think the current entry for job titles (listed under capitalisation) is misleading. Job titles is listed under both do and don't capitalise. I understand why this has been done but in this case I don't think it's clear. I think a separate entry for job titles would be useful with some text along the lines of 'generic job titles are in lower case eg minister. Specific job titles that refer to an individual are capped up eg Minister for Schools'.

    I haven’t been able to find the following things in the style guide which we have to correct fairly regularly:
    • months (always capped)
    • seasons (always uncapped)

    Also, under ‘Time’ it says ‘See Dates and times’ but the link doesn’t work (I've tried it in several different browers).



    • Replies to Ben Warner>

      Comment by Clare Lenton posted on

      Hi Ben,

      Thanks for your feedback, I’m glad you find the new A to Z easy to use. The broken link you spotted is now fixed.

      We’ll have a look at the suggestions you’ve made in the next couple of sprints and give you an update soon.


  7. Comment by Dave Hallworth posted on

    Hi Clare, like everyone else I'm finding the new styleguide a vast improvement, but I wonder if we could tighten up the guidance around compass points and geographical regions. As it stands I fear it will lead to confusion and inconsistency in content across GOV.UK.

    While I understand the principle behind using lowercase for compass directions and caps for administrative or recognised regions, the examples given are a bit baffling.

    For example, if the East End and Latin America are capitalised (presumably because they’re ‘recognised’ regions as they certainly aren’t administrative titles) how can it be argued that southeast Asia or south Wales are any different? And with these inconsistencies in the examples, how are editors to decide whether to capitalise East Africa, for example, or the Midwest.

    Also, aside from the inconsistency in capitalisation of far east and Middle East, I don’t think they’re great examples to give anyway for use in what may be politically sensitive contexts. The Eurocentric ‘far east’ was replaced by East Asia years ago. The Middle East is trickier: while it’s apparently regarded as politically incorrect by the UN, it’s still used a lot in their publications and it’s a widely understood term. But if we’re going to capitalise it, as a recognised region of Asia, surely we should also capitalise Central Asia, East Asia, South Asia and Southeast Asia?


    • Replies to Dave Hallworth>

      Comment by Clare Lenton posted on

      Hi Dave,

      Thanks for your feedback, I’m glad you find the new style guide useful.

      We’ve just made changes to the section on geography and regions based on some feedback we had. But it looks like we need to spend more time looking at the style for geographical terms government uses.

      This might be a good topic for a Basecamp discussion with other publishers.


  8. Comment by Ellen Booker posted on

    Hi Clare, Lucy
    When do you plan to redirect the old style guide ( to these new manuals?
    Best wishes

  9. Comment by Rosemary posted on


    Great to see everything in one place.

    Clearer examples around administrative regions, geographical locations, use of compass points and use of caps would be great - a definitive list would be even better.

    Also, it'd be great to have the A to Z links listed horizontally so we don't have to always scroll to click.