Style and substance: A digital content standard for local government

Last week the LocalGov Digital steering group published its digital content standard. The standard, which pulls together good practice from local government and public sector organisations around the world, is a digital style guide, content quality checklist and advice on things like organic SEO.

I’ve been really pleased to see the standard published for a number of reasons.

Firstly on a personal level. The standard came out of work stream led by Phil Rumens, Jason Williams and Marc Snaith but I was pleased to have fed some of my experience and expertise into the creation of the standard.

And I’m also pleased for the group. Just a year after we first came together we’ve delivered the first tangible resource to the sector. It fits with the principles we work to – broadly ‘digital by design, open by default’ as well as more specifically to raise aspirations across the sector and provide support through practical resources as well as networking.

Then finally, I’m really excited for local gov digital content out there. Local government hears a lot that it isn’t doing digital well but there are very few offering realistic and practical help to improve.

This is just one small part of how the sector can work together to make things better for individual councils as well as local government overall. It seems like a really simple, obvious idea to pool resource and knowledge and re-share with the sector but it’s actually quite disruptive – proving that expertise and good practice is within the sector, not just outside.

So – let’s talk about the standard itself. It is essentially a style guide, content quality checklist and advice on digital content such as organic SEO. The standard is not perfect – it’s not really intended to be. Everything that the group publishes is in a ‘beta’ format – a first version ready for collaborative development by the sector or to evolve as technology and user behaviour does.

The standard was published as a PDF but is being converted to a web format more in keeping with the advice we’re giving in the standard and making it possible to do the collaborative development.

And we know that the SEO guidance needs reviewing. Google released the Hummingbird update as the standard was published but if anything this shows the need for any such standard to be a ‘living’ document, evolving as the digital landscape does.

I’m really pleased that West Berkshire and Devon are adopting the standard and hope more council’s will adopt and feed into the standard. And I’m really excited about what other practical tools we can put in a kit to help local government continue to improve and digital practitioners pursue aspirations even in this time of austerity.

Find the standard on the LocalGov Digital website.

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