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URL standards for GOV.UK

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1.  GOV.UK URLs are designed to be naturally user (and SEO) friendly, and to follow a consistent, predictable, format. These guidelines set out how URLs should be constructed, and our approach to setting up additional URLs for marketing purposes.

2. These standards apply to the GOV.UK website and its subdomains. Separate standards apply to the wider use of the gov.uk domain, for example by local authorities.

GOV.UK URL style

3. The style for GOV.UK URLs is that:

  • URLs on GOV.UK always need to be clear, unambiguous, easy to read, easy to type and easy to share

  • URLs must use words and should not contain acronyms wherever possible. (see 8 for an exception where acronyms are used for an organisation re-direct.)

  • Dashes should be used to separate words within URLs to ensure they are easy to read.   For example, https://www.gov.uk/running-a-limited-company.  (see 5, 7 and 15 for exceptions on campaign landing pages and service sub-domain URLs.)

  • Articles (a, an, the) and other superfluous words should not be used.  For example, /benefits or /benefits-guides rather than /a-guide-to-benefits

  • URLs should use the verb stem where possible.  For example /apply instead of /applying

  • Each page must have a URL which is as short, memorable and unambiguous as possible.  This is especially important if that URL is going to be referred to offline.

  • The URL should be based on the user need rather than the (current) name of a policy, scheme or service, which might change (eg: the URL https://www.gov.uk/advertise-job is intended for people who want to advertise a job on DWP's Universal Jobmatch service however, it does not identify either DWP or universal jobsmatch as part of the url and so is not clear to the user).

  • GOV.UK URLs are lower case by default. However if there is strong evidence of a user need for  an upper-case short URL (for example, it will be read aloud and refers to a commonly-capitalised phrase, like www.gov.uk/P800) this can be set up separately.

Campaign sites and URL promotion

4.  Trailing slashes should not be used when sharing or printing URLs or for providing 3rd parties with links to GOV.UK content. For example, use www.gov.uk/nice-url-here rather than www.gov.uk/nice-url-here/

5.  Campaign landing pages exist on GOV.UK as a means to providing supporting digital content for campaign and promotional activity. These URLs will need to be aligned with the title of the marketing campaign. They will be  as short as possible and contain only lowercase a-z characters eg www.gov.uk/sortmytax, www.gov.uk/workplacepensions.

‘Friendly’ URLs and redirects for existing content

 6.  For marketing or promotional activity where a campaign landing page does not exist, then a top level redirect may be requested (see 10).

 7.  In some situations, even shorter URLs are needed. Some government information and services get promoted offline. Where this is the case it’s helpful if the URL is especially memorable and easy to say or type. Especially if a URL is going to be read aloud (on the radio or on an automated call centre message) it may make sense to request a re-direct. By default, short URLs do not use hyphens.

8.  Organisations. Each government department, agency or arms-length body on GOV.UK can have a single short URL for use when promoting themselves. By default this takes the shortest version of the organisation’s name in common use. This can be an acronym or words. For example:

'Groups’ or ‘high-profile’ groups on GOV.UK take short URLs in the following forms, by default.

  • high-profile groups follow the same standards as those for full organisations. For example, the short URL for UKVI, a high-profile group of Home Office, is www.gov.uk/ukvi
  • other types of group incorporate the name of the parent organisation. For example, groups that are part of DWP take the short URL www.gov.uk/dwp/groupname

9.  ‘Departments and policy’ content  redirects. Where there is a requirement to promote an organisation’s content to users in print or verbally, then a redirect can be requested within the ‘departments and policy’ area of GOV.UK. The short URL should incorporate the organisation name. For example:

  • www.gov.uk/dwp/policy-name would redirect to www.gov.uk/government/policies/policy-name
  • https://www.gov.uk/hmrc/contact would redirect to HMRC contact information

10.  Top Level redirect. These are re-directs which existing at www.gov.uk/url, such as those used for the organisation homepages. Due to the large amount of content that already exists at the top level of GOV.UK then only a limited number of re-directs will be allowed here. Requests will be considered by the GOV.UK Product Group on a case-by-case basis and will only be granted if the following conditions are satisfied:

  • The URL conforms to all other requirements of the GOV.UK URL policy.

  • The content being promoted originates from, or is significantly relevant to, more than one government department or organisation.

  • The URL needs to be specific to the content and make sense forever.  For example, include a year when using a re-direct for one-off promotion of an annual event.

  • The URL will be used for significant offline marketing and promotion.

 11.  External redirect. A GOV.UK URL must not be used to directly promote any content or service that is not available on the GOV.UK platform. A GOV.UK URL must not be used to re-direct a user to a non-GOV.UK URL.

Service sub-domain URLs

12.  The advertised start page of all GOV.UK transactional services will be of the form www.gov.uk/service-url and must comply with the GOV.UK URL policy.

13.  The transactional part of the service, the dynamically generated pages where users interact with the service - will typically not be hosted on www.gov.uk.  Rather, this part of the service will exist on a GOV.UK sub domain of the form servicename.service.gov.uk.  Detailed information on obtaining and operating the service sub domain is available in the service manual:https://www.gov.uk/service-manual/operations/operating-servicegovuk-subdomains.html

 14.  The ‘servicename’ part of this URL will be agreed between GDS and the service manager and will conform to the GOV.UK URL policy.

 15.   Dashes may be used to separate words where appropriate, but are not mandatory for service sub-domain URLs.

16.   The URL should be a suitable unique identifier for the specific service hosted on the domain.  It must not include reference to any (current) policy, scheme or organisation which might be liable to change in the future.


Document version history

v1.0 approved by GOV.UK steering group, July 2013

v1.1 minor formatting and numbering changes, September 2013 (Graham Francis)

v1.2 paragraph 8 and 9 (short URLs for organisations) expanded

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