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Improving how attachments and change notes display on publication pages

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We’ve had some requests from departments to look into improving publication pages. We’ve looked at the data to better understand how publication pages are being used and made changes to the design. We will be rolling these out on GOV.UK gradually and monitoring how successful they are.

We have been looking specifically at:

Attachment previews

We found that attachment previews (eg the thumbnails you see for PDF attachments) aren’t that useful when it comes to helping people differentiate between documents, and they also slow down page loading times. So we’re testing replacing the attachment previews with clear metadata displaying document type, file size, number of pages, and an accessibility notice.

We had a hypothesis when we approached work on this page that attachments made the page too long, and that we’d need to look at reducing the height of attachments. But we found out that the majority of publications have only 1 attachment, and this number tails off fast (stretching all the way to 152 – with only a single incidence). Given that most pages have a low number of attachments, we prioritised making information about attachments clear, over reducing the height of attachments.

Visibility for updated attachments

Whether a document had been replaced was previously not shown to users unless the author had published a change note. The date attachments were changed will now be displayed under the attachment.

Expanded change log

We know that the change log tends to be short. A very high percentage of documents have just a single change note. Given that the number of changes to documents are low, we’re experimenting with having the the change log displayed all the time (so you don’t have to click to expand it). We’re also improving the visibility and readability of change notes by expanding them from one column into two.

Moving page detail to the top

The page detail currently lives at the bottom of the page, which has a risk of being missed when it’s pushed down pages with multiple attachments. So we’re moving page detail to the top of the page under the summary. We’ve removed the “Detail” heading, in case you were looking for it in the screenshot.

Example publication page

Please note that the design below is a work in progress (and content displayed in the prototype isn’t accurate).

New publications page

Featured image on blog homepage: stacked papers by Antony Theobald on Flickr

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  1. Comment by Steve Docherty posted on

    I like the “visibility for updated documents” feature. Will it also work like an archive feature? So the previous versions would be available to download? This is something we would be able to take advantage of as a lot of our documents are updated on a cycle basis and some previous documents need to be accessed still for audit purposes.

    • Replies to Steve Docherty>

      Comment by Roo Reynolds posted on

      Hi Steve. This change won't introduce the ability to access older versions of attachments. That would be a separate issue, and something we probably need to think about as part of our approach to archiving. Thanks.

  2. Comment by Simon posted on

    Hi Rebecca,

    Are there any plans to have a content clinic or basecamp discussion on this? Publications are the primary format for most departments, but I'm not sure some of these changes will suit everyone.

    • Replies to Simon>

      Comment by Roo Reynolds posted on

      Hi Simon. If there are specific issues with this which you think will cause problems for users, or there's anything here that you know would cause problems for you, we'd love to hear about it. Thanks.

      • Replies to Roo Reynolds>

        Comment by Simon posted on

        Thanks Roo. I've posted my comments in the content basecamp.

  3. Comment by Andrew Robertson posted on

    Thanks for this update. I'm pleased to see these changes, including moving the 'detail' to the top so users can check if this page is what they need before being presented with the attachments.

    Can you explain how you intend to roll out 'gradually' - this change could affect contact centre staff who need to advise customers what to look for and click on.

    Also, is there a way of checking in bulk if wording in the 'detail' needs altering eg 'the above documents' will now be below.

    Look forward to hearing how these are received by users.

    • Replies to Andrew Robertson>

      Comment by Roo Reynolds posted on

      Hi Andrew. By 'gradually', we're treating this as several smaller changes that we can make to these pages over time (ie we *don't* mean rolling out the new design in its entirety to a growing subset of pages). There isn't a detailed plan for which bits of the design will happen when, but we've broken the work into smaller pieces which we'll be gradually implementing.

  4. Comment by E. Brown posted on

    Hi Rebecca,

    Moving the page detail to the top will make a huge difference to us. Thank you.

    Is 'having different publication dates for different attachments' in this iteration, or is that still to come? Will it include different change logs, or retain a single change log per publication?

    Thanks for the update, cheers,


  5. Comment by Alan Cooke posted on

    I notice in the screenshot there is a 'View online' option for the ODS file.

    Will a document's 'updated' date depend on whether it has been publically or silently updated?

  6. Comment by Dan Craddock posted on

    The page looks clean, but not sure you've run this by screen-reader users. Having the file type and size in the hyperlinked document title could be an issue for assistive technology users, i.e. it won't inform them that the link will open a PDF, and potentially a large, data-chewing one.


  7. Comment by Polly Green posted on


    Thanks for the update. It's good to hear that the summaries will be moving above attachments. I think that will be a big improvement.

    I can see the rationale for increasing how visible public change notes are for documents that aren't often updated but we have a couple of documents that are replaced daily with a public change note ('register of licensed sponsors: workers' and 'register of licensed sponsors: students'). Just wondering whether such a long visible list of change notes will work for these documents. What do you think?