Government websites play a critical role in providing information to citizens about services, policies and the latest developments. Content must be clearly written, well-structured, easy to understand and accessible to all. There also needs to be consistency in the tone of voice, the format of content and the site’s look and feel, so that every page represents the authoritative and ‘official’ view of government bodies.
But achieving this level of consistency is challenging. With numerous authors from across your organisation contributing and then updating content, meeting the required publishing standards and achieving a decent level of brand consistency is not straightforward. Inevitably individual authors have their own writing styles and varying levels of skill.
Ensuring consistency on your website requires significant effort from the centre. Unfortunately, time-stretched web teams usually don’t have the hours in the day to carefully police all content or handhold new authors in preparing content.
Thankfully there are tactics and strategies which can help.
Establishing clear publishing guidelines will let your authors and publishers know what is expected and why it is important. The Government Digital Service (GDS) guidelines on content design are a very useful and relatively succinct starting point. These cover everything from considering your audience to working on the content structure to writing titles and summaries. The GDS guidelines can easily be adapted for your website.
Sitemorse 'out of the box' already has the standards loaded - allowing clients to be on brand with content, removing the time to educate and support content publishers.
Author training and resources
Once you have set up your guidelines, authors need to be trained on why they are important and how to apply them. As well as dedicated training sessions, having a site with resources such as “how to” guides and videos can help. The downside of author training is that it can be resource-intensive for small central teams, particularly if you have a high turnover of staff and there are regularly new people to train.
Using page templates
Page templates within your Content Management System (CMS) can also help support your authors with their writing, encouraging them to stock to the right page format and layout, as well as ensuring only approved images from a central library are used.
Because content is continually changing and being updated, there is always new content to review. An automated approach is the best way for web teams to monitor where brand guidelines are not being met in updated and new pages. Automation is a remarkably efficient, cheap and effortless way to:
- Spot issues as they happen or on an ongoing basis and then fix them
- Identify which authors might need additional training
- Help you inform authors where they have issues, so they learn-as-they-go
- Implement a new publishing guideline and identify where there are still gaps
- Spot those smaller formatting issues which are harder to identify.
Automation prevents the need for web teams to regularly trawl through the site looking for issues, an enormously time-consuming activity. Instead Sitemorse automatically identifies issues and alerts you.
How Sitemorse’s unique brand automation reporting feature helps
As far as we are aware, Sitemorse is one of the only content governance and improvement products that effectively supports brand consistency and publishing standards through an automated approach.
Sitemorse reports on numerous content and brand issues. Sitemorse’s brand rules also check for general web management good practices.
For example, you can:
- Avoid specific phrases (specified by you)
- Identify where page titles are too lengthy
- Avoid using special characters in headings
- Avoid having generic phases used for link text
- Ensure the right format is used for email addresses.
Clients can build their own, additional, organisational, brand rules into Sitemorse. Pages will be assessed, and issues prioritised. Sitemorse works with clients to review brand, style, and publishing guidelines to establish what new, additional, rules could be added, for even greater adherence to institutional policies and guidelines, through automation.
These additional, institutional rules cut down on the communications and training required to implement any new rules across an organisation (e.g. a department name change, removal of a member of staff, new brand guidelines) as any additional rules will be built into the Sitemorse system, all content assessed against this new criteria, and errors and issues flagged in reports in the usual way.
Sitemorse ensure that the basics are covered across an institution first, before adjusting the fundamental capabilities of the system. Adding in additional, institutional rules further down the line will then be easier for the user community to adapt to, as they continue onto the next stage of their continuous improvement journey. Users are then more likely to understand the potential capabilities of the system, and be able to move, in manageable chunks, away from weekly reporting to continuous improvement and actionable insight.
How Sitemorse helps government websites achieve consistency
Checking for brand rules has proved to be an important Sitemorse capability, having the Government standards predefined ensures clients from day one can understand where improvements can be made - no need to spend time understanding and then setting up individual rules.
This feedback from James Steele, Web Manager at Nottingham City Council:
“Maintaining brand consistency across council websites is not easy. Content for Local Government websites is often provided from colleagues across the organisation, all who have their own style of writing.
“Sitemorse really helps us provide better consistency across our corporate websites. Weekly reports make it easy to identify any inconsistencies and help to ensure that no matter who contributes to our web content, our website has a consistent look and feel."
Brand consistency is important
Brand consistency and high-quality content are critical for the success of your government website. A variety of tactics can be used to achieve this including author training. Sitemorse’s automation of checking for brand consistency is also key, allowing teams to keep on top of changes to content, and saving vast amounts of time. If you’d like more information, then get in touch! (https://sitemorse.com/about/contact/)