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Some interesting things about how we do content design

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We don't just write the content for GOV.UK - we design it. This sounds simple, but they're fundamental to the way we work: understanding user needs, designing content that meets those needs, and iterating to improve it in response to user feedback.

Dealing with government usually isn't something people do by choice, they do it because they have to. We want to make sure that our content does what they need it to do, as simply and as quickly as possible.

Here's a short selection of interesting posts on the subject of content design, starting with a short video interview with our own Padma Gillen, in which he explains what makes good content design and what makes a good content designer.

We aim to understand the user need before we produce the content, to ensure the content meets a user need.

We take a user need and present the content that meets the user need in the best way possible.

Government information can be complex, but we try to use plain English. We constantly remind ourselves and the teams we work with that our aim is clarity.

Content has got to be easy to understand, simple to find and, it goes without saying, useful.

Like everything we do at GDS, we constantly review our work to get it right.

You – our users – inform our style guide. That's why our style guide is ever-changing.

GOV.UK will cater for varied audiences trying to complete a wide range of tasks, so consistent standards are vital.

We want to get out of the way of people completing what they came to do. That's why we aim to write less and say more.

We present complex information in a smart answer format to help user find it quickly.

We don’t need to ‘build the GOV.UK brand’ by being obviously quirky or clever, and it doesn’t need to feel especially weighty or governmental. Our hope is that no one ever notices the language.

We aim to make information easy to understand, easy to retain, and easy to act upon.

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  1. Comment by Rahna posted on

    Good stuff. Basics that all web managers should follow. 'Advanced common sense' as Steve Krug puts it.

  2. Comment by Christophe posted on

    I really think there is a fine art to writing copy that is simple without sounding condescending. The poster above me got it spot on - writing a short piece of content is a lot more difficult than writing a long piece.

  3. Comment by David posted on

    "I am sorry I wrote such a long letter, I didn't have time to write a short one", brilliant! This one line explains all. Just love the concept of Content Designer.

  4. Comment by Tim Blackwell posted on

    Hi Carrie/Giles

    I've made some comments on the accuracy of benefits and tax credits content on GOV.UK at


    • Replies to Tim Blackwell>

      Comment by Padma Gillen posted on

      Thanks for your comment. Our content is checked by subject matter experts in the relevant government department before going live on GOV.UK. That said, facts do change as a result of the introduction of new policies, changes in the law, announcements in the budget etc.

      Generally, GOV.UK remains up to date and changes are published as soon as they come into force. On the occasions we don't achieve this, we're extremely grateful to our users for pointing it out, and we work as quickly as we can to remedy inaccuracies.

      We've now updated some of the content you highlighted and we’re currently checking the rest with colleagues in the relevant departments as a matter of priority. Any inaccurate content will be updated.

  5. Comment by mike posted on

    A really great article

  6. Comment by Wilson Silva posted on

    I just want to congratulate you for your work. This is the best government website I've seen. It is very useful, modern, responsive and noise-free.