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Guide to writing web pages

We want to ensure online services are easy to use, intuitive and focused on customer need. To achieve this we have web design principles, web standards for page authors and web standards for developers.

Below you will find some good practice to help you when writing for the web.

We follow gov.uk's writing style guide

  • Be concise - make content brief and to the point.
  • Meet the user need - publish only what visitors need to know to complete their task.
  • Know your audience - their search terms, questions and how they read.
  • Don't use FAQs - answer visitors' questions in your content.
  • Include keywords in your content to boost search rankings.
  • Use the active voice (not passive) - this will help you write concise and clear language.
  • Break up text into subject areas with headings and sub-headings.
  • 'Front-load' headings, sub headings, titles, bullet points and links to put the most important information first.
  • Good content is easy to read - use words that are easy to understand.

Use the index links below to jump to information further down this page:

  1. Avoid creating unnecessary new pages
  2. Writing for your audience
  3. Writing for the web
  4. Creating and adding documents
  5. Shortcut URLs
  6. Contact Web and Digital Services

1. Avoid creating unnecessary new pages

  • Is the content needed and will it have an audience? If you are unsure, contact Web and Digital Services for guidance.
  • If the information is not specific to Surrey County Council, link out to the information on another reputable website.
  • Avoid duplication. Check if the information already exists on the Surrey County Council website or on S-Net.
  • Consider adding new content to an existing web page or microsite.
  • If the new content is one subject or related subjects, try to condense the information to fit on one web page with headings for each new subject area.

2. Writing for your audience

  • Make sure your page completes the user's journey as follows: 1. I have a question/need; 2. I have found the right page easily because the page title and description are clear; 3. I understand the information on the page; 4. I trust the information as I can tell it is up-to-date; 5. I have found my answer/I know what to do next/I feel reassured/I don't need anything else.
  • Write effective and accessible web content that is suitable for a wide audience.
  • Be as concise and as clear as possible.
  • Make sure you answer all of your customer's most common questions in the body text but avoid creating FAQs pages.
  • Make sure you use keywords in your page titles and in your content that your audience will use to search for your page. Add those keywords and a description to the metadata.

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3. Writing for the web

  • Write from the customer's/resident's perspective using active sentences and personal pronouns (I, we, you etc).
  • Write pages in the 'inverted pyramid/front loading style' ie start the page with the most important information.
  • Write in Plain English to make sure your page can be understood by an average 14 year old.
  • Avoid jargon and unnecessarily complicated words.
  • Explain acronyms when you use them with the words spelt out first eg Surrey County Council (SCC).
  • Aim to write sentences that are 15 to 20 words and paragraphs that are three to four sentences.
  • Use meaningful headings that can be quickly scanned for content and context.
  • Follow house style (available on s-net).
  • Make sure your web page content is accurate.
  • Do not use 'Page under construction', 'content awaited' or similar on a published page.
  • Do not publish blank pages as these will be withdrawn immediately.
  • Make headings and sub headings short and meaningful.

4. Creating and adding documents

  • Documents should always be converted to PDF and meet PDF standards unless you have permission from Web and Digital Services to publish other file types.
  • Do not add documents owned by other organisations (to the Media Library) as they may be copyright protected. Create an external link to the website where they are located and the customer will always have the latest version.
  • Prepare your document correctly for the web with the appropriate branding. If you are unsure, please see the publications guidelines (on S-Net) and PDF web standards.
  • Always get your document signed off by your Service before publication. Do not publish draft documents.
  • Make sure your file size is 1MB or less. If it isn't, contact Web and Digital Services to let us know.
  • Decide upon a clear title and a meaningful description for the document.

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5. Shortcut URLs

  • Decide if you will need a shortcut web address eg www.surreycc.gov.uk/schoolmeals
  • Tell Web and Digital Services about the shortcut as soon as possible as we need to check the address does not already exist and that it meets our web standards.
  • For technical reasons, we cannot set up the shortcut until the page it links to has been published.
  • Do not publicise the shortcut URL before all of the relevant web pages are published and we have created the shortcut.

6. Contact Web and Digital Services

Please contact Web and Digital Services for further guidance on preparing your content for the web or to discuss your website plans and requirements. Tel: 020 8541 8788. Email: digital@surreycc.gov.uk

Gov.uk's writing style guide can be found on their Content design pages.

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