DWP to create departmental content standard

Department works with GDS to create and implement a consistent style for all content

Credit: Nick Youngson/CC BY-SA 3.0/Alpha Stock Images

The Department for Work and Pensions is looking to create consistent standards and guidelines for all its online and other content.

The department currently has a number of different content-producing teams, and a variety of style guides in use. The multiplicity of different guidelines “can sometimes produce a disjointed experience for users”, according to a GOV.UK blog post from the DWP and the Government Digital Service.

Content designers from GDS recently attended a DWP-hosted workshop which aimed to examine the problem more closely and come up with possible solutions.

“There are multiple obstacles for iterating and improving content: old technology, legacy content and the lack of a system capturing changes to offline content such as letters. Changes can also be hard and expensive to make,” the blog said. “Colleagues at DWP told us there had already been attempts to standardise guidance for people creating content but it had not worked.”

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Part of the solution will be the earlier involvement in the content-creation process of designers, the two parties concluded. But the cornerstone of the plan to address inconsistent content will be the creation of “a single, evidence-based style guide for DWP”.

The process of creating this guide has begun with work “to collate and rationalise” the guides that are already in use. This exercise will also involve comparing and contrasting the language they each recommend, and examining whether they remain contemporary.

Having been compared with GDS’s style guidelines, the DWP will examine how best to eliminate duplication from its existing guides.

“We also need to discuss and establish what constitutes ‘evidence’,” the blog said. “Each of our teams uses a different type of research to make decisions about content – from academic papers to focus groups and user research. We’ll work with our research specialists to identify a standard of evidence the style guide will be based on.”

The blog, which was co-written by GDS senior content designer Helen Nickols and DWP Digital head of content Melanie Cannon, concluded that a pan-departmental content guide will be an important step to enabling the government’s wider goal of creating of end-to-end user journeys.

It said: “This will not be a quick thing to address, but it’s worth the investment and is a crucial step towards true end-to-end service design.”

Sam Trendall

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