GOV.AU Content Guide Content structure

Structure content to make it easy for the user to find what they need.

Plan the structure before writing

You need to understand the user’s needs before you write anything.

Structure the content around meeting the user’s needs first, then meeting requirements around mandated information.

Design content to:

Design for mobile devices first

People use a variety of devices to access government information and services. These include mobile phones, tablet devices (for example, iPads), desktop computers and laptops.

Use responsive design methods to make sure users can read your content on all their devices.

It can be much harder for some people with disability to use a mobile device than a desktop or laptop computer.

Think about how the content will work on a mobile device first. Then think about how it will translate to a larger screen.

Write and design content that is consistent and uses plain English so everyone can use it.

Communicate with text first

Don’t rely on video and images to convey important information.

Plain text can reformat and resize to fit all size screens (reflow).

It’s harder to make images and video accessible across different mobile devices.

Users may not be able to watch a long video in the context where they are using a mobile device (for example, on a bus).

Get to the point

Find out the user needs and plan to meet them first.

It’s harder for users with mobile devices to consume long content.

Make forms work on mobiles

Plan forms that are easy to use on small touch screens.

There’s guidance on making accessible forms in the DTA Design Guide.

Use clear typography

Use typography and accessible contrasts that make text readable on all devices.

There’s guidance on typography and colours in the DTA Design Guide.

Avoid PDFs and other documents

Don’t bury information in PDFs or other documents.

PDFs and Word documents are not accessible on mobile devices.

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Paragraphs

Use short, simple paragraphs.

Limit paragraphs to 2 or 3 sentences containing 1 idea. Or break text up into bullet point lists.

Allow for lots of white space.

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Headings and subheadings

The user should be able to get an understanding of the content by scanning the headings.

Make the title short and accurate

Write a clear title and lead summary. Tell the user what the page is about and who it’s for.

Headings are the first words users read to check the relevance of content before they commit to reading it.

Make headings short and succinct enough to stand alone when read out of context, for example in search results and on social media.

Google searches only show 55 characters of the page title.

Use only 1 top level (H1) heading.

Break up content with subheadings

Users lose track if there are too many heading levels.

Break up blocks of text and draw the reader in with short interesting headings.

Help the user to understand the relationship between sections of text.

Short content should only use 2 subheading levels (H2 and H3).

Frontload keywords in headings

Start headings and subheadings with keywords that help the user to make a connection.

This will also help search engines find your content.

Example of

frontloading subheading

Digital communities of practice

Smart cities in Europe

Avoid meaningless words such as ‘more’ and ‘related information’. State what the paragraph says.

Example of

good and bad headings

Like this:

Smart cities in Europe

Not this:

More information

Use sentence case for headings

Use sentence case (an initial capital then lower case) for headings, except when using proper nouns.

Example of

using sentence case in heading

Common tax mistakes

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Bullet point lists

Break up long sentences with lists to make it easier for the user to scan.

Consistent list items

Write lead-in content that introduces the list and ends with a colon (:). Don’t add a colon if it’s a heading.

Use a parallel structure for items so they all start in the same way. For example, start each item with a noun or a verb that is a familiar keyword for the user.

Aim to make each list item a similar size. This makes lists easier to scan.

Don’t add a semicolon to the end of list items.

Sentence fragment bullet point list

For lists of fragments use minimal punctuation.

Don’t add a full stop after the final point.

Example of

sentence fragment bullet point list

The environmental protection plan includes:

  • site inspection
  • sustainability report
  • ongoing benchmarks

Full sentence bullet point list

For a list of full sentences, use a capital letter at the start of each point and end each item with a full stop.

Example of

bullet point list for full sentences

Awareness week agenda:

  • We will host a community morning tea.
  • The Minister will launch the book.

Numbered (ordered) lists

Only use a numbered list for ordered steps or to show priority.

Example of

numbered list

Sentence fragment numbered list:

On Wednesday we run agile ceremonies in this order:

  1. daily standup
  2. retrospective
  3. planning
  4. showcase

Full sentence numbered list:

How to register for conference:

  1. Choose the number of days you will attend.
  2. Pick the workshops you will join.
  3. Enter your discount code (if you have one).

Avoid second and third level lists

Rewrite content to avoid multi-level lists.

It makes it harder for the user to understand a list if it has more than 1 level.

Example of

rewriting to reduce levels of lists

Like this:

To register you need to show your referral document to the registrar.

You also need to show 2 forms of identification:

  • proof of your name
  • proof of your address

You can’t use the same form of identification for name and address.

Proof of name:

  • driver’s license
  • marriage certificate

Proof of address:

  • driver’s license
  • bank statement
  • bill

Not this:

To register you need to show to the registrar:

  • your referral document
  • 2 forms of identification to prove who you are and where you live (you can’t use the same form for both name and address):
    • proof of name:
      • driver’s license
      • marriage certificate
    • proof of address:
      • driver’s license
      • bank statement
      • bill
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Make the destination of the link clear.

Think about the user and their context when reading the information. Be helpful.

Don’t use meaningless terms such as ‘click here’, ‘read more’ or ‘useful links’.

Don’t make the link text too long. Only link the keywords.

Add links wherever they are most useful to the user.

Embed links in paragraphs to help the user scan for the information they need.

Be careful of overcrowding paragraphs with links as this can affect readability.

Grouping links together at the bottom of a page can disrupt readability too. Users may skip the text and just read the links.

Make calls to actions (CTAs) accurate and prominent

Use keywords the user will understand that accurately describe the action.

Guidance on buttons and labels is available in the DTA Design Guide.

Hyperlink all email addresses.

Use mailto: prefix in the URL but not in the link text.

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Write the navigation label to meet the user’s needs.

The label should tell all users what they will find at the destination. Often it will be the same as the page title.

Keyword analysis tools can help.

Use sentence case (an initial capital then lower case) for navigation labels, except when using proper nouns.

There’s guidance on forms elements and other design components in the DTA Design Guide.

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