General advice for writing digital content

Make your purpose clear

When writing your content, put the most important information first and the detail later. A reader may decide they’ve arrived at the wrong page if you don’t get to the point quickly.It may be useful to state who the page is for, right at the start. For example:

“This page is for people looking for information about getting help for an elderly relative at home.”

Try to include more detailed information as you move down the page rather than overload the reader at the beginning.

Think carefully about presentation. Customers will usually be looking for one or two pieces of information; it needs to be made easy and intuitive to find. Some information might be better presented and more readable in a table or in a bulleted list rather than in a paragraph or block of text.

If you need to include a great deal of information, think about how it might be best broken up into sub-headings. Try to strike a balance between text and white space.

Including “background information” (for instance about the background to council decisions, or regarding internal council procedures) needs to be carefully considered. It is rarely useful to a customer. Provide ways to find this information if desired, such as contact names or email addresses rather than include it as standard.

Make your content understandable

One of the most difficult tasks in writing digital content is to make it so it can be understood by as many people as possible without losing meaning or sounding patronising.

Does the title tell the customer what this page is about, and does it make sense when viewed on its own?

Remember that your page might be arrived at from a related page within the council, or directly from a search engine (see Search Engine Optimisation tips).

Sometimes web content makes assumptions at the reader’s expense. This can be because the writer assumes that the customer already understands something, for instance that they have read another page or resource.

If you need to do this, then the information might be better collected in one single location so that it makes sense in a stand-alone way.

Where possible, pages should be thought of as “stand-alone” items for information; relying too much on customers navigating between pages so that information makes sense can cause confusion.

Avoid using jargon and acronyms – ask yourself what you think the page means and try to put it into spoken language to see if it makes sense.

Ask someone else to review it for you, ideally someone without any previous knowledge of the information you’re writing. They will be able to pick up on things that don’t make sense that you may have missed.

Where you absolutely need to use technical terms, explain them for the customer by the use of Popovers, or include a glossary section if appropriate.

All content in this guide is available under the Open Government Licence v3.0, except where otherwise stated