Creating Govt.nz content
Our home page is designed to communicate a diverse, friendly New Zealand identity, while conveying the authority of the New Zealand Government. It prioritises information aimed at meeting user needs above promotional or topical material. Most of the content on the site is grouped into 15 ‘hubs’.
Hub pages are navigation pages covering a broad topic. They should have between 4 and 10 sub-topics on them. Where there is a sub-topic that has several pages of content, it is grouped into a sub-hub. The purpose of a hub page is to make it easy for users to compare different pages and choose the best one.
Sub-hub pages are navigation pages covering a more specific topic. They should contain 3 to 10 pages of content. Sub-hub pages are designed to be skipped over when navigating from a hub page so that users get to informative content quickly.
Timelines are 'overview' pages. They give a brief chronological overview of a process that spans multiple separate steps and link to more information about each step. They usually sit as the first page within a sub-hub, as an introduction to the pages that follow.
We use a timeline when:
- a subject has multiple related (but not necessarily chronological) processes
- users need an understanding of everything that relates to a topic to help them grasp where to begin and what they might need to do
- parts of the subject or process are optional or simple — a timeline helps a user to skip past pages that aren't relevant or go straight to key information.
To step users through a single process like applying for something, use a process page.
Info pages are standard pages for text content. They can exist on their own, or inside a sub-hub. They can also sit underneath other info pages and underneath organisation pages.
We use an info page when:
- a page of content stands alone, or
- a page of content is related to other pages in the sub-hub, but isn’t part of a sequence.
Process pages are for sequential content, usually the steps of a process. Each page is 1 step of the process.
We use a process page when:
- we need to step users through a single complex process
- users are applying for a service or benefit (if the application process is simple, use an info page with standard process headings).
The steps should follow this pattern as much as possible:
- What it is
- Who can get it
- How to apply
- What happens next
Because the page title does not change when moving between the different steps, it’s important to let screen reader users know the page content has changed. When a user goes to a new process step, focus goes to the title of that section.
Page titles, headings, summaries and paragraphs
We give each page on the site a unique, descriptive title. They are always styled as H1.
Page title example
About this website <h1>
We use headings:
- to describe the topic or purpose of the content
- frequently, so it's easier for users to scan a page and find the information they need
- in the correct hierarchy — Heading 1 <h1>, then Heading 2 <h2>, then Heading 3 <h3> and so on — so that:
- users can understand how each piece of content relates to the next
- the same information is accessible to everyone.
To make our content accessible, we:
- use headings instead of bold text
- don't skip heading levels
- always have content underneath headings.
Camping in New Zealand <h2>
You can camp in the North Island or the South Island.
Camping in the North Island <h3>
You can find camp sites in every region of the North Island.
Camping in Waikato <h4>
There are some lovely camp sites in the Waikato region.
Summaries introduce the content on the page and help users make a decision about whether they’re in the right place. They appear:
- under the page title
- in search results — both on the site and in search engines, and
- in hub and sub-hub pages.
A summary should:
- be less than 200 characters including spaces — just 1 or 2 short sentences
- include information that might answer users' needs without them reading further.
You can apply for NZ citizenship by grant if you're a permanent resident and you've been living here for at least the last 5 years.
Paragraphs — body style
Our paragraphs are:
- left aligned — this makes the text easier to read because it provides your eye with a consistent starting point for each line
- about 80 characters and spaces in length so a user's eyes can move comfortably from one line to the next
- as short as possible so they're easier to understand.
We use content elements within paragraphs to help comprehension, including bulleted and numbered lists, short sentences and note styles. We don't use italics or bold text, although there are exceptions to this.
How to structure content
Digital.govt.nz has more information on structuring content, including heading hierarchies.
Optional template elements
For info and process pages, these elements display by default:
- sub-hub navigation — this shows the other pages at the same level in the navigation, and the page's parent
- contact information — this displays a link to the responsible agencies’ organisation page
- print icon
- our feedback form.
These elements can all be turned off if required.
These elements don't display by default but can be turned on:
- documents — if the page contains an important document (like a PDF form), it can be displayed in the left-hand navigation block
- social share links — links to share the page on Facebook, Twitter and email appear at the bottom of the page
- featured image — for navigation pages.
We only use a table if there's no clearer way to display the information in text.
Tables are used for data, not for layout. We try to limit the number of columns in a table.
People with low literacy or digital skills are often reluctant to scroll down the page on websites, a trend observed by Nielsen as well as our own user research.
In addition, a lot of government information explains cases that only apply to some users, which distract and confuse users who the exceptions do not apply to.
Accordions help with both of these issues.
Accordion lists on hub pages (for navigation)
On hub pages, we use an accordion list to contain most of the content on the page. This gets the headings as far up the page as possible so users can quickly get to the section they need.
Accordions on content pages
We put content that only applies to some users in an accordion within our page content (we call this an edge case). This means that we streamline the page for the majority of users, while serving those with more complicated situations.
Edge case accordions usually go underneath more general content and have 'if' headings, such as 'If you're over 65' or 'If your documents aren't in English'.
Why we don’t use traditional accordions
In traditional accordions users can only open 1 section at a time. Some users with cognitive impairments might have difficulty remembering what they’re read, or which section they read it in. Anyone might want to compare 2 pieces of information.
Guidelines for designing for lower literacy users also suggest avoiding text elements that move (like sliding menus). We wanted the text to stay in the same place when the user clicked on it, so that even if the page changed, the point the user is looking at remains fixed.
We use buttons as a call to action if there is a clear thing users should be doing on the page, for example ‘submit’ or ‘apply online’.
We also use them in the left-hand navigation block if there are popular options we want to give people quick access to. We use analytics to decide what to link to.
The note style is used to draw attention to information that has been identified as something users regularly miss or misunderstand when engaging with government. It's not usually used for something that is compulsory or mandatory.
The warning style is intended to highlight information that is vital to the user — often something compulsory or mandatory. Without it they may:
- make a mistake
- fail to get something they are entitled to
- miss a deadline, or
- act illegally.
The warning style is only for emergencies. The content usually:
- has a specific time limit and will be taken down within a relatively short time
- should be of importance to a large number of users, or
- helps people who are in personal danger.
Promo tiles give a preview of priority content. They consist of a title, description and image.
Promo tiles can be a variety of widths. They can display across the space available in groups of 1, 2 or 3. On extra small screens they snap to full width.
Where we use promo tiles
We use promo tiles on 2 sections of the home page to link to timely or new information.
We own and manage both sections. Tile placement is decided according to business needs, the timeliness of the content, and user priorities.
Under 'More on Govt.nz'
These tiles link to distinct topic areas, or timely information that is usually delivered on Govt.nz.
We display up to 6 promo tiles at any one time.
Under 'New government services and tools'
These tiles link to new services or tools to help with initial promotion, and to help gather feedback from users.
These links are not permanent navigation points, and are only provided for a fixed term (usually 1 month).
We display up to 3 promo tiles at any one time.
Requesting a new promo tile
Request a tile by emailing us.
Your request should include:
- the purpose of the initiative or trial, including the target audience
- the specific goal being sought by linking from Govt.nz (such as seeking feedback on a trial, raising awareness as part of initial launch)
- any time constraints or required dates
- a proposed image and text using these specifications:
- image size: 500px x 281px
- file size: aim for 50KB and no more than 100KB
- description: 15-20 words maximum.
We review your request in the context of the broader scope of Govt.nz.
Where possible, we try to use the same headings in the same order across Govt.nz. This provides consistency across our site, and helps us to make sure there are no gaps in our content.
We make page titles as active as possible, for example 'Get a driver licence' rather than 'Getting a driver licence'.
We start page titles for an application or process with a verb, like:
Pages that only provide information don't need to follow this pattern, for example 'What to do when someone dies'.
These standard headings are recommended but not prescriptive — adapt them as needed to make the most sense in context. We leave out or combine headings as required.
Standard headings for steps on process pages:
- What you need to know
- What you can get
- Who can get it
- How you apply
- After you apply
- When you get it
- Using the [service or product applied for]
- Related services
Subheadings within pages
We use some standard headings in our content.
General info page headings:
- What you need to know
- Who can get it
- How long it takes
- What it costs
- What happens next
When making an application:
- Documents you need
- Complete the application form
- Submit the application form
- Order [by post/by phone/in person]
- Pay the fee.
After you've applied:
- Getting your documents back
- When you find out about your application
- If your application is denied
- If you want to appeal the decision
- If you want to withdraw your application
We try to use 'if' headings for accordions as much as possible. This helps users to identify whether they need to open the accordion and read the text underneath.
If you're living overseas
If you have a disability