Website style guide
We follow the GOV.UK style guide wherever possible, to provide users with a common experience.
In response to questions from colleagues, we have published an abbreviated set of guidance to explain how we write in a consistent format.
Before you start
- Is the content necessary?
- What is my key message?
- What are you trying to achieve?
- Who is it for?
- What do they want?
- Is it clear what they need to do?
- Does this information exist somewhere else? Can I just link to it?
Put your most important point first
Get straight to the point. Visitors will look at the first few words of a paragraph and decide whether it’s worth reading the rest. The majority of our users access the site from mobile or tablet devices, making brevity even more important.
Keep it short
Big chunks of text act like a brick wall. Keep sentences simple. No more than 25 words. Avoid subordinate clauses, semicolons and brackets. Use bullet points where possible.
Use plain English
Average reading age in the UK is 9 years old
Use easy to understand words
Tell people what to do
Keep sentences short
Avoid words and phrases in other languages eg vis-à-vis
Don’t assume that the reader has any prior knowledge
A full style guide is available on GOV.UK
Dates and times
Use these formats:
Dates - 18 September 2005. In tables or where there is less space 18 Sep 2005
Date range – 2012 to 2013
Use the 12 hour clock with am or pm except in situations such as timetables when the 24 hour clock is the norm
Time range - 9am to 4pm; not 9:00am to 4:00pm – screen readers read all characters
Use numerals – these scan better than words eg 3 not three
Thousands – use a comma after the thousand eg 1,000
Millions – use m and decimals eg 1m, 1.5m
Billions – use bn and decimals eg 1bn, 1.5bn
Always use decimals rather than fractions, round to two decimal points if necessary
With currency don't use both pound and pence signs. Stick to 2 decimal places where possible.
Percentages –% not per cent
Telephone numbers – give the STD code eg 01296 395000. These should be ‘tagged’ so that users can click on the number to make a call. Avoid 0845 numbers wherever possible
Tables should be avoided. They are almost impossible to navigate on a tablet or mobile device.
PDFs, and word documents should be avoided wherever possible. They don’t work for mobile users and typically have accessibility problems
Use a document only when:
The document is more than 40 pages long
The document is aimed at a professional audience
Spreadsheets can be used, but must be published in open document formats.
Keep the file size low, under 2mb is ideal
Ensure it is accessible – see training guide
Don’t use background colours – think of the customer’s ink cartridge
Check it opens the right way up
Name documents so they make sense once printed.
Add bookmarks or clickable indexes to long documents to make them easier to navigate
Avoid wherever possible. They cost users money
A good size for a standard page would be shortest side of 200 pixels
Think about what you are using the picture to convey
Check we own the copyright or have permission to use the image
Label images so that screenreaders know what’s there
Do not use team, project or service logos.
Describing the user, Council, documents and your work
- Address the user as you
- Talk about the County Council as us and we
- Never write Bucks County Council or Bucks CC. If you must abbreviate use BCC
- Don’t use team or individuals’ names eg Road Safety Team
- Always use the word Councillor instead of Member (member means nothing to the public). Never use the abbreviation 'cllr'
- Don’t keep referring to Buckinghamshire or the County Council
- Only use the full title of a group, partnership or document the first time on each page after that just refer to it as the group, partnership, document, plan, strategy etc
- Don’t refer to the website navigation in your content (e.g. click on the left)
- Don’t repeat the list of links available in navigation on your content page.
- Users will automatically look to the navigation for more options
Every intranet page needs contact details.
Most website pages do not have contact details on them, we want users to try to self-serve first. Each area has a contact details on their landing page and there is a main list within Contact us.
We do not publish FAQs. Read about why FAQs are bad
We aim to meet Level AA of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. The guides below follow the AA rules.
Headings should be meaningful and straightforward. They should make sense on their own. Use sub-headings to split your page into sections and make it easier to scan. Headings must be used in order. Do not use bold for headings.
Market towns (Page name)
Your page name will already be set to heading 1.
Winslow (heading 2)
Buckingham (heading 2)
Town Hall (heading 3 a heading within the subject of heading 2 above)
Library (heading 3 a heading within the subject of heading 2 above)
Amersham (heading 2)
For all links:
- Don't display the link in full
- Never just say ‘click here’ the linked text must describe what it will link to eg visit the DVLA website. Writing good link text - Nomensa
- External links should open in a new window, internal links should open in the same window
- Link to external sites with caution, as we cannot govern the quality or accuracy content. If you do link to an external site, ensure the link goes to the right place on the site, not just the home page
- Check links regularly