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Content design playbook

This playbook helps CPNI staff develop better content and increase engagement with their audience. Following these principles informs how to structure new content and provide a framework for ongoing development

Last Updated 23 February 2021

Writing content for CPNI

We have developed the CPNI content playbook to assist staff in developing clear, easy to understand information. The steps outlined here provide a guide for content owners to follow, outlines the design system and how to meet accessibility requirements. 

This is an ALPHA version of the content playbook. We welcome your feedback on how it can be improved.

Please speak to the CPNI communications team for further information.

1 - Start with a user need

When creating content, its important to understand your users. Asking the right questions will help you do that. You’ll need to find out:

  • who your likely users are
  • what they’re trying to do
  • how they’re trying to do it now
  • how their life or work influences what they do and how
  • there current working experience and organisational risks


2 - Writing your content

Use meaningful headings

Meaningful headings make your content more accessible as they help users navigate the page. You should remember to format headings correctly using markdown.

Explain all abbreviations and acronyms

Before using the acronyms, you should explain the term first and include the acronym in brackets e.g. Operational Requirement (OR). You do not need to explain acronyms that are well known and in common use, such as UK, EU or VAT.

Keep sentences short

Read the sentence aloud. If you have to take a breath, you need to shorten or break up the sentence. Avoid wordiness by cutting useless modifiers and breaking up long thoughts into several sentences. If the topic is complicated, balance it by using short sentences to explain things.

Keeping sentences short helps with accessibility.

Using descriptive links helps users know where a link will take them, or what downloadable linked content is. Do not use ‘click here’ as link text.

Example 1 Example 2 Example 3

Click here to download our terms and conditions

Change to: Download our terms and conditions (PDF, 4.2MB)

Go to this webpage for our master’s course list. 

Change to: The Courses for 2019-20 page has a full list of our master’s courses.

Visit us our webpages: ww.example.co/openaccess

Change to: Visit our Open Access site

Plain English Examples

3 - Embedding videos within content

Videos can be displayed in two ways:

1. Embedded Video

When using videos within content, we can embed them onto the page where they will appear as full width. This is to meet accessiblity regulations and provide consistency across the platforms. The sample video below shows the correct dimension. Please speak with one of the communications team for further assistance.

2. Pop-up Video

We can also use our new functionality of the pop-up video. This video can be linked from any word, however, for accessiblity reasons, they must have a transcript attached. Here is an example: ​TBYL GLITCH video​ 

Please speak with one of the communications team for further assistance.

4 - Selecting images

These websites provide images, icons, etc to be used within your content.

  Description Paid
iStock Discover royalty-free images, illustrations and videos that will make you stand out. Yes

The internet’s source of freely-usable images.The internet’s source of freely-usable images.


Icons and Photos For Everything


Graphic resources for everyone - Find Free Vectors, Stock Photos and PSD

icons8.com Free icons, photos, etc Free


5 - Meeting accessibility requirements

Government regulations require accessiblity to be thought about from the start. 


Content must be available to at least one of your senses. 

  • e.g. for visual impairments can text be increased in size? For hearing impairments is there a transcript available for a video to be read?

Ensure users can find and use your content, regardless of how they choose to access it. Not everyone uses a mouse, some may have to use a keyboard or speech recognition software.

  • Can your content be accessed using different input devices?

The content needs to be understandable and accessible to a range of cognitive abilities. Can users understand your content and how the service works?

  • Use clear and simple language that's easy to understand, e.g. plain English and short sentences.
  • Make sure interfaces are consistent and predictable. 

Webpages need to be built to be compatible with the technologies that people are using. Compatibility with assistive technology agents and can accurately interpret content.

  • Can your content be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents?
  • Does the content work with screen readers or older browsers? 

More guidance on designing for accessilbility can be gound on the gov.uk website. 

    Style Guide Principles

    • Blue banner text provides a brief overview of what the page contains.
    • The Excerpt is pulled in to other pages (such as landing pages and search results) and provide a preview of what the page contains too. In most cases this can be the same as is used in the blue banner. Please note, there are restrictions regarding the length, with a maximum number of characters allowed.
    • All blue banners and excerpts will have no full stops at the end.

    Further tools and resources

    • Hemingway plain english checker tool - The Hemingway app is a third party tool. You must not use it for any sensitive or personal information. You can use the browser-based version, which is free, or the app, which is paid for. Check with your organisation’s IT policy if you are unsure.
    • Plain English Campaign - An organisation promoting plain english communications. Their website features resources to help improve your writing.
    • GDS Style Guide - The Government Digital Service style guide covers style, spelling and grammar conventions for all content published on GOV.UK, arranged alphabetically.



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