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Crisis communications content design checklist: design system

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1. Use a mobile-first style

The majority of visits to crisis pages are from visitors on phones.

A low-prose, mobile-first style makes the content more effective, and takes less time for approvals and translation.

2. Do not duplicate content

If content already exists, link to it.

This will avoid outdated content in multiple locations such as:

  • current cases
  • travel advisories
  • awareness resources

3. Follow a news-based page structure

  1. alerts (when required)
  2. directions
  3. background / static content

Keep actively changing content (alerts, dates, numbers) separate from static content

4. Add the date and timestamp when information changes

Use this for alerts, changes in policies or directions, or data in tables

5. Follow guidance for alerts and warnings

6. Write information as directions

  • tell people exactly what to do, directly, simply
  • use “you” to address the public
  • use “we” to refer to the Government of Canada

7. Use headings as answers

8. Use bulleted lists

  • easier to scan for desktop and mobile users
  • less demand on translation
  • if instructions change, it is faster to update than paragraphs

9. Use bold text sparingly

  • only use to draw attention to keywords
  • the more you use it, the less effective it is

10. Pull links out of paragraphs

Put links below the text, aligned to the left of the page.

11. Keep sentences short

If you do use full sentences, keep paragraphs short so they fit on a phone screen.

12. Words to avoid

  • "current" - unless content is updated daily with a date stamp
  • “in order to” - Use single words like “to” ( more examples )

13. Keep track of common wording and terms

Share this list between all communicators (web, social media, strategic communications)

  • avoid channels saying the same thing differently
  • reduce demand on translation

14. Identify pages with emergency related content

Keep track of your content that will change frequently to avoid conflicting messaging

15. Create web content, not documents

  • web content is more accessible
  • web content is mobile friendly
  • usability testing has shown that people look for content on the page they land on and miss important information hidden in documents/publications

16. Removing content is just as important as publishing it

Outdated content:

  • may do harm to users if they follow inaccurate guidance
  • affects the trustworthiness of the Government of Canada

Too much content:

  • dilutes key messages and instructions
  • makes it harder for users to know what they need to do

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