Smarter Guidance

Defra and its agencies are simplifying all of their guidance to make it simpler, quicker and clearer to use and understand. Read on for more information or use the link below to give us your views on our outline plans for content.

Topics open for comment

Why guidance is being reformed

In 2012, Defra reviewed users’ experience of guidance. Defra and its agencies then owned 120,000 pages of guidance across multiple websites. Guidance was often out of date, overlapping or unclear about what was required.

Businesses reported that guidance was difficult and time-consuming to read and understand. 75% of businesses saw lack of clear information as a barrier to compliance.

Designing guidance around user needs

New guidance is now designed to give users the information they need from government such as:

  • what people must do to comply with regulations
  • how to get permissions
  • how to apply for government grants

It is generally based on the activities and tasks people are doing so readers only have to read one version and can be confident in what they need to do.

Regulations and policies are not being changed – revised guidance explains these more clearly.

It’s not generally government’s role to publish advice, such as good practice. Feedback shows including good practice advice in guidance can confuse users – it makes it more difficult to work out what to do to comply with the law.

Government digital standards

Revised guidance follows the Government’s Digital Service standards for GOV.UK. This includes:

How the reforms work

We are revising guidance by using all available customer data to identify user needs. These data also help to optimise content for searching.

The project has shared outline plans for the revised guidance for public comment.

Professional content designers are working with policy and subject experts to make sure revised guidance is factually and legally correct.

Where appropriate, draft content is being tested with users.

These reforms will finish during 2015 with new governance and structures to make sure guidance is continuously improved.

Working with others

The project team is working closely with a wide range of external organisations to make sure good practice advice is available where needed.

This includes: professional organisations (e.g. Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management, Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment); industry organisations (e.g. National Farmers Union, EEF – the manufacturers’ organisation); and NGOs (e.g. Angling Trust, Wildlife Trusts).

Feedback and continuous improvement

Defra and its agencies will continue to improve guidance to make sure content gives users what’s needed from government.

You’ll notice we’ll be doing this intensively during 2015.

This means reviewing all feedback and web performance information on a continuous basis. Please help with this if you notice anything wrong or missing with guidance by providing feedback via the “Is there anything wrong with this page” link at the bottom of the relevant page on GOV.UK.

In some cases – normally for the more complex content – we’ll first publish content into GOV.UK’s “beta” mode. This means the content is actively under review and being improved for a period of time.

Wildlife species guidance is currently in “beta” mode. Please provide your feedback via the link if anything is wrong or missing so we can act on it.