Website best practice

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Digital Service Standards

The Digital Service Standard (DSS) is a set of best-practice principles for designing and delivering government services. It helps digital teams to build services that are simple, clear and fast. Based on these standards, we have included some tips and tricks we think are important to know. For more information, visit the Digital Transformation Agency’s website. 

Information architecture (IA)

IA or content structure is a form of metadata. In other words, information about information. Content structure is how you organise your information. If you do it well, visitors to your site will find it easy to locate, understand, share and use your information. If you get it wrong, it may leave visitors feeling frustrated - so it's important to get it right!

Content - usage and accessibility

Obviously, the more visitors who can understand your website content, the better. Your content also needs to be accessible to people with disabilities and people who speak English as a second language. Under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992, all government organisations must meet the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 AA.


Writing for an online audience is different to writing for print. Visitors to your website will often scan content to find the information they need. They may also read your content on different devices, such as their phone, tablet or computer. Here's our top five tips to help make your content easy to read:

  1. Break paragraphs up under descriptive headings.
  2. Put the most important information first.
  3. Keep sentences short, around 35 words or less.
  4. Use simple words, avoid jargon and acronyms.
  5. Aim for an education level of grade nine English or less. You can test the reading level using lots of free online programs.

For further guidance for writing online content, visit the Digital Transformation Agency’s website.  

Responsive design

Ensure your website looks great on any device by using responsive design. The goal of responsive design is to build web pages that change the layout to suit screen size and orientation. This is an approach to web page creation that makes use of flexible grids, images and layout and CSS queries.

Publishing: COPE

COPE stands for Create Once Publish Everywhere. The basic idea is to create great content once and repurpose it. COPE is a great time saver. For example, you may publish an article on one webpage and use a slice of it on another page with a link to the full article. You can also reuse content for social media, email, newsletters and the list goes on!

Loading optimised images

Everyone gets frustrated when a webpage takes time to load or worse still, doesn’t load at all. To avoid this, we recommend optimising images, graphics and design on your website. This means reducing the file size of your images as much as possible using either a plugin or script. This will speed up the load time of the page without sacrificing quality. Optimising images will improve how well your website ranks in a Google Images search. It will also increase the visibility of your website.

You’ll find plenty of tips and tricks for optimising images online. If you need help, we can point you in the right direction.

Improve your website over time

You are unlikely to create a perfect website the first time around. As time goes on you'll get a better understanding of your user’s needs. You can improve your website in iterations, you don't have to do it all today. 

We use Agile to deliver, refresh and add to our website. Agile is a practice recommended by the DTA. It is a way of breaking projects down into small parcels of work delivered in sprints over several stages: Discovery, Alpha, Beta, and finally Live. Read more about agile on the Digital Transformation Agency’s website.  

This page was last updated on Friday 8 May 2020