Set up a website for government campaigns

How to set up a new government campaign online.

On this page:


Options for GOV.UK Campaign Platform

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

There are 2 options available to Government communicators. If you can demonstrate the need for an online campaign presence, this guidance explains how to set one of the following up.

Option 1: Campaign on the GOV.UK Campaign Platform

A single page campaign hosted on the GOV.UK campaigns sub-domain – using fully accessible WordPress templates for the design of the campaign. The campaigns sub-domain is a platform created specifically to host government campaigns. Your campaign will utilise customisable templates to engage users and provides single page functionality allowing you to embed images and videos.

Here is an example of this option with the Fire kills campaign.

Option 2: Multi-page campaign on the GOV.UK campaign platform

A multi-page campaign hosted on the GOV.UK campaigns sub-domain. The campaign team designs, builds and hosts the campaign themselves (often using an external agency), and they must ensure the campaign meets style and accessibility requirements (a legal requirement). This is appropriate when a campaign has multi page design, functionality and engagement requirements which may not be attainable through the single page option above. You will be required to provide evidence as to why this option is required.

Here is an example of this option, with the Broadband upgrade fund campaign.


Overall Government campaign requirements

All government campaign sites must be:

  • time-limited: designed to support a planned programme of comms activity, with a specific end date (usually within 2 years)
  • 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
  • delivered in line with the Government Communication Service (GCS) OASIS campaigns planning approach
  • evaluated in line with the GCS evaluation framework
  • may be developed with a short Marketing URL which redirects to the campaign (e.g. gov.uk/firekills)

Overall timelines and planning

For the single-page WordPress campaign platform : ensure you have allowed at least 4 weeks from the time you submit your application to your site being built if approved.

For multi-page sites: due to their extra complexities, you will certainly need more lead time. If your campaign also has Professional Assurance (PASS) approval, submit your application straight away.

Applications must be sent through the GOV.UK “ZenDesk” (note: only those with ZenDesk login rights can submit via ZenDesk – this is usually a Head of Digital Communications/the department’s GOV.UK single point of contact).

Application form and OASIS plan

You must submit an OASIS plan (Objective, Audience insight, Strategy, Implementation, Scoring/evaluation) as well as the application form. The OASIS plan should clearly show how the campaign website integrates with the wider campaign. We may also request a basic content sketch plan.

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

1. Campaign on the GOV.UK Campaign Platform

The GOV.UK Campaign Platform offers communicators the opportunity to create secure, easy to build one-page campaigns.

Some good examples of the look and feel are:

The Campaign Platform is a single page WordPress template which communicators are given access to develop themselves. This “sample site” has been created to show communicators how the wire-frame looks and 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, to name just a few.

2. Multi-page campaign on the GOV.UK campaign platform

Hosting a multi-page campaign on the GOV.UK campaign platform allows you to design your own website, with a unique feel, functionality and design. Some good examples of the look and feel are:

A multi-page campaign on the Campaign Platform must:

  • communicate a clear rationale on why option 1 is not suitable
  • be designed, built and hosted by the campaign team (often built by an external agency)
  • be fully resourced by the campaign team.

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 will be terms & conditions attached which must be followed.

Approval of final campaign content

Once built, the content on the final single-page WordPress campaign needs to be viewed and approved by members of GCS.

You should allow a minimum of 2 working days for this process, and typically it may be longer, depending on the number of changes required. Your campaign will only be approved to go live by GCS once the changes are completed.

Finally, GCS 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 – legal requirements

An accessible campaign is one that works for all people with a diverse range of hearing, movement, sight or cognitive ability.

From 2019, the law changed to ensure standards on accessibility requirements for public sector campaigns are met.

The single-page GOV.UK campaign platform templates are fully accessible. As campaign managers, you will be responsible for ensuring that multi-page campaign sites and their content comply with the law. Some basic principles to follow are:

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

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.

e. Colour contrast

Some users with visual impairments won’t be able to interact with your campaign 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 performance review

6 months after your site goes live you will be required to provide performance data for the site based on your digital Key Performance Indicators (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 campaign 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.

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and cookies

GDPR compliancy: Campaign Platform

To be GDPR 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 using digital advertising or tracking must ensure this is reflected transparently in the Cookie Notice.

An example of a Campaign Platform Cookie and Privacy notice.

You will need to speak to your department’s Data Protection Officer (DPO) to get the Cookie Notice text approved and for full guidance.

Privacy Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR)

Under PECR, by law a user’s consent is required for “non-essential” cookies. “Non-essential” includes third-party cookies used for online advertising (for example, Facebook Pixel) and also includes your web analytics (for example, Google Analytics). Website users must take a clear and positive action to consent to non-essential cookies. This is a pop-up consent banner presented to all visitors to your website, with a choice to either “accept” or “decline” cookies.

Campaign managers must take action to deploy a Cookie consent banner before the site is made live.

From 2020, an accessible cookie consent banner plug-in was built into the WordPress campaign platform. When building your page, this can be found in the “Cookies & Analytics” section of the campaign platform – please read the platform User Guide for further details how to deploy.

Note: if you are using Marketing Cookies: the new plug-in mechanic only caters for Facebook Pixel, Google Floodlight and Linkedin Partner ID.

If you are using additional digital marketing “tags” (in Google Tag Manager), you will instead have to use a 3rd party Cookie Consent tool (such as CookieBot or Civic)

This is because the new plug-in mechanic cannot accommodate any tags above and beyond Facebook Pixel, Google Floodlight and Linkedin Partner ID.

Visit:

Before filling out your application, you need to 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

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 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.

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

Find out how to apply for a campaign page through the Government Digital Service: How to get your campaign online