Designing content: Continuous improvement of web content
When you design content for Canada.ca, you design for people. The goal is to help people get what they need from the government.
On this page
Focus on task success
First, determine the task at hand: what is it that users are trying to do when they get to the page or set of pages?
Tasks can be things like:
- apply for a benefit
- get a copy of an official document
- look for jobs
- find out if a business name is available
One question should drive all design decisions: does it help people succeed in completing the task?
People need to know they'll find information they can trust.
A consistent brand
Using a consistent look throughout the Government of Canada web presence is crucial to building a trustworthy experience for people. People need to know they'll find information they can trust.
Use the mandatory elements of the Canada.ca design system to implement this trusted brand.
The mandatory elements you need to follow are:
- Canada.ca domain
- mandatory styles (typography, colours and layouts)
- standard header and footer
- a handful of high-level mandatory templates to establish a consistent institutional presence and the Canada.ca topic tree
Once you've applied this uniform brand, you can still use creativity within the body of the page to come up with the best design to help people complete their tasks.
Provide the answers people are looking for
The best way to foster trust is to provide people the answers they are looking for.
When someone can confidently take action based on the information you provided, you know you’ve built a trustworthy product.
Make sure you understand what people are trying to get from your content. Use evidence from research and data to make it easy for people to find, use and understand these answers.
Make content findable
People can’t succeed at a task if they can’t find where to initiate it.
To improve findability, you can work on:
- internal and external search
Some people will navigate to their task on the Canada.ca site. To support this, making a clear path for people's tasks is crucial. That means planning your navigation structure and taking time to understand what labels will work best for your audience.
- User navigation on Canada.ca
- User-need categories for destination content
- Canada.ca topic tree
- Theme and audience lead departments
- Labelling study: which words work best (blog post)
Internal and external search
Some people will search on Canada.ca or external search engines.
Using the right keywords, organizing your content properly and adding good metadata can help improve search results. Adding structured data can also be a useful technique.
Help people understand
Once people find the page they need, they have to be able to understand what they read. The way we write and the words we use make an enormous difference.
Use the words people actually use, not your internal jargon.
Stick to the essentials, and provide just enough information for people.
Write simple sentences and short paragraphs. Make good use of headings to help people scan the page and focus on the parts they’re looking for.
- Canada.ca Content Style Guide
- Writing principles for web content (style guide)
- Plain language (style guide)
- Crisis communications content design checklist
- Web readability score - Experimental
Make content easy to use
Use patterns and layouts that make it easy for people to use the content to complete their tasks. This could be simple text, a filterable table, a button, an interactive checklist or other patterns.
If you can't find an existing pattern or template in the library that does everything you need, you can get creative as long as you respect the mandatory elements of the design system. If your solution works well, we may add it to the Canada.ca design system for others to use when they have similar needs.
Do usability testing to make sure your design really does help people complete their tasks.
Build in accessibility and inclusivity
Accessibility and inclusivity have to be at the forefront of your design. Just like translation, accessibility and inclusivity are non-negotiable.
Make sure your design is accessible as you develop it, not as an after-thought.
The Standard on Web Accessibility requires all GC web pages to meet level AA of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG ) 2.0 requirements.
But this is only the minimum standard: if possible, shoot for AAA and WCAG 2.1 requirements.
- Standard on Web Accessibility
- Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)
- CDS Accessibility Handbook
- Designing for accessibility during COVID-19 (blog post)
- Writing for accessibility (style guide)
- Writing for inclusivity (style guide)
Checklist for finalizing content
Thank you for your feedback
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