Set up a website for government campaigns
A campaign is a planned sequence of communications and interactions that uses a compelling narrative overtime 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 a page on the WordPress “campaign platform”, or alternatively how to apply for a bespoke campaign microsite..
On this page:
- timeline and planning
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and cookies
- setting up a page on the government “campaign platform”
- setting up a bespoke campaign microsite
Timeline and planning
Make sure 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” (Note: only Heads of Digital Communications/department’s single point of contact with ZenDesk login rights can submit applications).
See How to get your campaign online (on GOV.UK)
You must submit an OASIS (Objective, Audience insight, Strategy, Implementation, Scoring/evaluation) 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.
General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and cookies
GDPR compliancy: Campaign Platform
From 25 May 2018, all government campaign websites must 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 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.
ICO Cookie Compliance: Privacy Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR)
Under PECR, consent is required for non-essential cookies. This includes third-party cookies used for online advertising (for example Facebook Pixel) or web analytics (for example Google Analytics). Website users must take a clear and positive action to consent to non-essential cookies. This is usually a pop-up consent banner presented to all visitors to your website, with a choice for users to either “accept” or “decline” cookies.
Campaign managers must take action to implement a Cookie consent banner before the site is made live.
From October 2020, there is a dedicated cookie consent plug-in mechanic built into the campaign platform, which is fully accessible. 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.
If you are using Marketing Cookies, the new plug-in mechanic caters for Facebook Pixel, Google Floodlight and Linkedin Partner ID only.
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.
- the How to Deploy the Cookie consent Banner page if you need to deploy CookieBot
- for further reading: ICO cookie compliance, PECR and GDPR
Setting up a page on the government “campaign platform”
The government’s Campaign Platform offers communicators the opportunity to create secure, simple one-page campaign websites that are low or no cost.
Examples for campaign websites
Some good examples of the look and feel are:
- Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS): Shared Parental Leave
- Ministry of Justice (MOJ): Offender Employment
- Home Office: Forced Marriage
- Skills Funding Agency: The Skills Toolkit
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, if you are purely providing information, you should be publishing it on GOV.UK instead
- 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 Communications Service (GCS) OASIS campaigns planning approach
- evaluated in line with the GCS evaluation framework 2.0
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.
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.
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 and approved by members of GCS.
You should allow at least 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.
An “accessible” website is one that works for all people with a diverse range of hearing, movement, sight or cognitive ability.
In September 2019, the law changed 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:
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.
- 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 that is not on the page
Your links must be formatted in a way that follows the GOV.UK content design guidelines.
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.
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 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.
Six 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.
Setting up a bespoke campaign microsite
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:
- Department for Work and Pensions (DWP): ‘Workplace Pensions‘
- Home Office: ‘Police Recruitment‘
- Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DDCMS) – ‘VE Day 75th anniversary‘ (VE is Victory in Europe Day)
- Cabinet Office: ‘Digital and tech China‘
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, 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: How to get your campaign online