Website style guide

8423106320_cd341df560_z(Image courtesy of Side Wages)
This website has been live for a few months now, the dust is settling and enhancements ongoing. The thing is, there are 30 of us throughout the consortium writing content for this website and unsurprisingly, consistency in writing isn’t happening.
As a step in the right direction, we’ve developed a one-page style guide for us all to work to which will undoubtedly go through iterations. Just as important as a consistent tone though, is that we

write digital copy


write for search engines.


I took half of the 30 (those that weren’t on holiday) through this style guide on a video conference call using the below slides to articulate things and show how. We covered
  • People read differently online – They scan read in an ‘F’ shape and are task focused.
  • Rule of 2s is crucial – a) 1st two words in the headline need to include the key word / topic, b) 1st two lines in a paragraph need the rub of the matter and c) 1st two paragraphs tell the whole story. Content after that point adds value, a different perspective to the above, but the user must get the gist without needing to read much.
  • We write headlines – but writing content is half the job…
  • Digital PR is just as important – 3rd party websites linking back to us hyperlinking a keyword will pay dividends.
  • User behavior on site from our email and social isn’t analysed much, but it will be. Everyone seemed open to trying out UTM tags on the URLs we tweet etc.


Participation on the call was great, as is always the case. The proof will be in the digital pudding as to whether a style guide alone will mean we rank better for important keywords. As I’ve said before, this website is a working prototype where we’re still shaking out the best ways of doing things. Maybe we should consider GOV.UK’s approach of peer-to-peer approval before content is published. It may slow down lead time between writing content and publishing a little bit, but could help us improve things further, and is the spirit of the consortium after all. One to think about.