New WordPress platform for campaigns revealed

The main highlight features of the newly launched WordPress campaigns platform are :

  • Single-page or multi-page capability 
  • Improved, sleeker look and feel
  • Many more functions and settings including “highlights”, image cards, and tables
  • Google Analytics (GA) 4 enabled (the new version of Google Analytics). For further information read How we’re preparing for the migration to go to G4 
Help to grow. Learn new skills, reach more customers and boost your profits with help to grow

Many of you will be familiar with the process for creating a no/low cost campaign website on the campaign platform using WordPress. Developed in 2017 by Government Digital Service (GDS) in partnership with the Government Communication Service (GCS), the platform has allowed users to create a single page campaign site, at no/low-cost, to good technical standards and with a uniform look. 

All campaign sites are intended to be campaign themes deriving from the current Government Communications Plan. The campaign platform has enabled Government communicators to create campaign sites by “dropping in content” – this was an alternative to hiring agencies, which would save significant money and time. Good examples on the old platform are DEFRA – Woodland Creation and Student Loan Company  – Refunds.             

Similar to popular website-building tools Squarespace or Wix, the idea of the original campaign platform was that it would be a guided template, not overwhelmed with functions and settings. This meant non-technical colleagues across all GCS (typically in Campaigns, Strategic Communications, Content Design, and Digital Communications teams) could use the platform and potentially implement it at pace. The original platform lent itself very well to departments who had frequent behaviour change campaigns, with 1 or 2 simple audience call-to-actions.

The new campaign platform functionality

In 2021, it was clear that the platform was in need of evolution and a facelift. The platform needed to keep up with modern day digital trends, and improved functionality, while maintaining good accessibility and UX standards.

Development managed by GDS began in 2021 on “Campaign platform version 2.0”.  

GCS’s Digital Communications Development team have had important inputs into the work, including identifying problems and bugs, helping with user experience (UX) research, and guiding the GDS team on typical types of behaviour change campaigns.

Launching now, the main features of the new template are:

  • both single-page and multi-page capability
  • improved, sleeker look and feel
  • many more functions and settings including “highlights”, image cards, and tables

The new template (based on a new version of WordPress called Gutenberg) has completed a pilot stage and been used to great effect for the campaigns:

Additionally, it was first piloted on single pages with Help To Grow (by BEIS), and Rip-Off Tip-Off (by Competition & Markets Authority).

How will this impact GCS campaigns and communicators? 

This is an exciting new phase for government online campaigns, allowing people to improve their communication channels.

As with all significant changes, there will be new challenges, and departments will primarily need to become familiar with the new template, with its much increased choices of functionality and settings. As such when planning your campaign, we advise you to factor in more time than usual to accommodate this. Likewise appropriate resourcing will need consideration – especially if you are intending to use it in a multi-page context, with those added complexities.

We have worked with GDS to make the template as user-friendly as possible and you have access to a sample site and a user guide to navigate the new features. 

GDS will be introducing new “drop-in Surgery sessions” – intended to be weekly sessions – where departments will be able to book in to discuss issues or complexities faced on the new template. You can find out about these by emailing GDS Product Manager inderjeet.singh@digital.cabinet-office.gov.uk 

With the introduction of this new platform and the new multi-page features that are now available, GDS are intending that there will no longer be an option to apply for a bespoke / agency-built campaign site (otherwise known as microsite), unless there is an exceptional reason (which would need to go via GDS’s Exemptions route). 

If you have any questions, contact the GCS team, onlinecampaigns@cabinetoffice.gov.uk 

Essential further reading