Websites for government campaigns

How to set up a new government campaign website

A campaign is a planned sequence of communications and interactions that uses a compelling narrative over time to deliver a defined and measurable outcome.

Government communicators may require a website to support a campaign. This guidance explains, if you can demonstrate the need for a campaign website, how to set one up using either:

  1. the government Campaign Platform,
  2. or a bespoke campaigns microsite.

Timings: Please ensure you have allowed at least 4 weeks from the time you submit your application to your site being built if approved. If your campaign has Professional Assurance approval, submit your application straight away.

Applications must initially be sent through the GOV.UK “ZenDesk” (NB: only Heads of Digital/department’s single point of contact with ZenDesk login rights can submit applications). A link to GOV.UK and the ZenDesk is at the end of this guidance.

You must submit an OASIS plan as well as your application form. The OASIS should clearly show how the campaign website integrates with the wider campaign

It is mandatory that this GCS OASIS template is used for all campaign website applications – no alternative templates are accepted.

GDPR compliancy: Campaign Platform

From 25 May 2018, all government campaign websites must be GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) compliant. You (campaign managers) will be responsible for writing a Privacy Notice and a Cookie Notice for your Campaign Platform site. . Any campaigns driving traffic to the site via digital advertising should ensure they reflect this transparently in their statements.

You will need to speak to your department’s Data Protection Officer for full guidance.

1.Campaign Platform

The government’s Campaign Platform offers communicators the opportunity to create secure, easy to build one-page campaign websites that are low or no cost.

Some good examples of the look and feel are:

BEIS “Shared Parental Leave”

MoJ “Offender Employment”

Home Office “Forced Marriage”

A site on the Campaign Platform must be:

  • time-limited: designed to support a planned programme of comms activity, with a specific end date (usually within 2 years)
  • often focused on some aspect of attitude, perception or behaviour change, rather than solely on public information provision
  • co-branded: the site should carry a distinct brand, different to that of the parent organisation, but also marked as official HM government information (as can be seen on the ‘Flood’s Destroy’ campaign)
  • delivered in line with the Government Communication Service (GCS) OASIS campaigns planning approach
  • evaluated in line with the GCS evaluation framework

Websites that don’t meet the above criteria or that host a transactional element (e.g. where people use a government service) need to go through the Cabinet Office exemptions route.

The Campaign Platform is a single page website template (WordPress) which communicators add content to themselves. This “sample site” has been created to show communicators how the wire-frame looks & the types of content it is possible to insert, and contains non-technical guidance on how to add box images, video, headings, buttons for call-to-actions, etc.

Application review

Applications are reviewed by a Panel of reviewers from both GCS and GDS who will come back to departments with comments and queries. If your site is approved for build, there may be terms & conditions attached which must be followed.

Approval of final website content

Once built, the content on the final website needs to be viewed & approved by members of GCS. You should allow 2 working days for this process, depending on the number of changes required. Your site will only be approved to go live by GCS once the changes are completed. Finally, we require email confirmation from your Head of Digital Communications that the final version has been viewed and quality assessed by them and is approved to be made live.

Accessibility requirements from September 2019

An “accessible” website is one that works for all people with a diverse range of hearing, movement, sight or cognitive ability. From September 2019, the law is changing to ensure standards on accessibility requirements for public sector websites are met. As campaign managers, when building your campaign platform page, there are some basic principles you must now follow to comply with the new law:

a. Images

Alternative text, or “alt text”, is read out by screen readers for those with sight impairments.   Avoid images that contain text. 

Alt text must:

  •  tell people what information the image provides
  • describe the content and function of the image
  •  be specific, meaningful and concise

Use normal punctuation, like commas and full stops, so the text is easy to read and understand. 

Do not:

  • include the name of the photographer or person who created the image
  • start with ‘Image of’, ‘Graphic of’ or ‘Photo of’
  • repeat information from the page
  • include extra information not on the page

Further information on alt text best practice.

b. Links 

Your links must be formatted in a way that follows the GOV.UK content design guidelines

c. Headings 

All headings must be formatted using the ‘heading’ formatting in the editor. They can be formatted as either ‘heading 2’ (heading) or ‘heading 3’ (subheading). 

 Bold should not be used. 

d. Videos must be subtitled

This is a must for website accessibility to assist those with hearing impairments, whether it’s done on YouTube’s ‘Closed Caption’ service or creating “burnt in” captions using your own captioning software. Find out more about video subtitling for accessibility.

e. Colour contrast

Some users with visual impairments won’t be able to interact with your website if the colour contrast isn’t set properly. So ensure there is a clear distinction between font and background colours at all times, so that text is clearly legible.

6 month website review process

6 months after your site goes live you will be required to provide performance data for the site based on your digital KPIs. Please provide the relevant contact details for the team responsible for reporting in your application form. Following the 6 month review we may suggest alternative options such as refreshing content on your site or ultimately closure of the website if objectives are not being sufficiently met, or if you are not providing us with the 6 month review documentation in a reasonable time-frame when requested.


Applications from departments can also be accepted for bespoke campaign microsites, these websites are separate to GOV.UK but take a GOV.UK url. These are usually subject to build costs. Examples of a  campaign microsite are DWP “Workplace Pensions” and Home Office “Police Recruitment”.

Before filling out your application please consider:

An increasing number of the public now get their news and information from social media and other digital channels. Before requesting a campaign site, make sure you’re confident you have an evidenced based strategy for getting your target audiences to engage with it. Ensure you’ve explored all other options with your department’s Head of Digital Communications, who is a member of the Digital Centre of Expertise (DCOE). If you’re an ALB, contact your sponsor department.

You don’t need a site on the campaigns platform or an external microsite for:

  • generic news announcements, statutory guidance or policy updates
  • duplicating information already on GOV.UK
  • essential information about government services, this should be on GOV.UK

Find out how to apply for a campaign page or a microsite through the Government Digital Service.

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