Content types on the ONS website Articles
Articles can be used to provide more detailed analysis on topics or to give updates or changes to a project or method.
An audit of articles published on the ONS website identified two categories of articles: analysis articles and information articles. Within these, the audit identified eight types of articles.
- in-depth: an in-depth look at a topic using new, previously published or experimental data
- cross-cutting: broader analysis formed from linking separate data and topics
- review: retrospective examination of previously published data from a different angle
- commentary: latest commentary on trends found in thematically linked bulletins
- digital content article: short articles on a timely topic that are collaboratively written with the Digital Content team and focus on visual representation of data
- methodology changes: explanation of recent or upcoming changes in methodology and how they affect data or findings
- progress report: description of or an update on a project, programme or roadmap
Articles are usually published on a one-off or irregular basis, although some articles are published on a monthly or quarterly basis.
Our Digital Content team works with business areas across the ONS to create articles specifically for inquiring citizens
Who are articles for
Articles have a range of purposes and so may be of interest to different users
It is important to understand your users before you start writing your article.
Analysis articles contain more detailed analysis of a topic than statistical bulletins and are often used by a range of users, including the media. Information articles, such as methodology changes and project updates, are likely to be of more interest to policy influencers and technical users.
These users are often busy and want to get the information they need quickly and easily. Writing clearly and using plain language will make your content understandable to all users.
When to use an article
- be published alongside a bulletin if they contain analysis of new data; they should not be the only release of new data
- be timely and relevant at the time of publication
- be structured with the user in mind, presenting the most important or interesting information first
- not provide complex or detailed explanation of a method, data source, process or concept (we have separate methodology articles for this)
Articles are not bulletins
An article cannot be the only release of new data. If you are publishing the first release of new data, always use a bulletin, headline or data-only release.
Articles are not methodology
Articles can be used to give an explanation of any recent or planned methodology changes and how these may affect the data. They should not be used to give detailed information about a method, process, data source or concept. Instead, use a methodology article (a separate content type) and link to it from your article.
Use a methodology article if you are writing any of the following:
- Quality and Methodology Information (QMI) reports
- Quality assurance of administrative data (QAAD) reports
- methodology pages or guides
- explainer articles
- technical reports
- user guides
Methodology articles do not provide previous versions and the content on the page is replaced as and when changes are needed. There is only ever one version of the page.
Keep articles focused
Consider the length of your article to make sure you are getting the main messages across. On average, users spend about four minutes looking at a page on the website. That is long enough to read around 900 words. Aim to limit the amount of analysis on the page to be shorter than this.
We do not expect most users to read every word on every page. But if you are publishing significantly more than this, consider whether you could split your content into multiple articles or link to methodology pages elsewhere on the website.
If your content already exists on the ONS website or it is published on another website, link to it rather than duplicating it.
Article sections separate the different types of content on the page. Consistency is important for our users, so we should aim to use standard section headings where possible.
We have created recommended structures for each of the article types based on research.
The content management system does not allow related downloads to be added on the right-hand side of an article page. We can include a green “View all data used in this release” button to link to any datasets referenced in the analysis.
Download one of our article templates:
Digital content articles
Digital content articles are collaboratively written with the Digital Content team and aim to improve the interest and understanding of the citizen audience rather than experts.
Digital content articles:
- are usually on a timely topic
- are written for the inquiring citizen user persona
- range from 1,000 to 3,000 words, with minimal chart notes
- feature visualisations designed to be easily embedded in news websites
- are mostly standalone, rather than part of a series
- use a neutral article template and are visually distinct from standard articles as they do not have a table of contents
Digital content articles have a conversational approach. Complicated concepts are explained simply, with the inquiring citizen user in mind. They contain analysis and commentary rather than method.
They can only be created in the main taxonomy and cannot be created in the census area of the site. They cannot be created in a series and are published as one-off, separate publications.
This article type does not suit content which require substantial methodological detail or navigation between sections. Use other article templates instead.
Structure and navigation
Digital content articles read more like stories with a beginning, middle and end. They do not feature:
- a table of contents
- main points
- numbered sections
- numbered charts
- methodology or quality sections
Titles and headings
Titles are shorter than other statistical releases and focus on the main findings. They do not include time periods or geography. In contrast to statistical bulletins and articles, they can be descriptive rather than labels.
Each section heading will be descriptive of a main finding. Users will be able to see a narrative from reading the section headings alone.
Tools and automation
Digital content articles make greater use of tools such as calculators and interactive maps.
Some articles contain elements of semi-automated journalism that allow people to select a variable, such as a geographic area, to get a more personal story. This is known as “robo-journalism”.
This has a postcode look-up tool that displays a few lines of basic comparative text about the selected area, for example “Fareham is above average in England for…”
“Scrollytelling” articles make greater use of graphics and interactive elements, with minimal supporting text. Users view a continuous visualisation, triggering interactions as they scroll.
Articles based on qualitative data focus on the human impact and may feature quotes predominately.
Current and upcoming work articles
Current and upcoming work articles provide users with an overview of the ONS’s work on a specific topic or theme. This includes present work, as well as work we are completing in the near future and longer-term projects.
Use a clear, unambiguous title that makes it easy for the reader to understand what they are about to read.
Use the following format:
[Theme, topic or emerging trend], current and upcoming work: [month and year of publication]
Green jobs, current and upcoming work: March 2022
Cost of living, current and upcoming work: June 2022
What to include
The first edition of a current and upcoming work article should provide a broad overview of your team’s work on a specific topic or theme.
Any subsequent editions should only cover work and updates since the previous edition and any work that will take place before the next edition.
Focus your content on the work that is currently taking place or about to take place. Only reference past work detailed in previous editions if you need to provide updates. You do not need to duplicate or repeat content in each edition of your article. Use clear and descriptive link text to refer users to previous updates and past work in earlier editions of your article where needed.
If you are planning work on a long-term project that will span several editions of your article, use the “Upcoming work” section to describe the phase of the work that you are currently working on.
Article titles and summaries
Article titles need to be short and clear, and reflect the content on the page. The shorter the title, the more likely a user is to click on your content in a search result.
Article titles should:
- be a concise description of the subject
- include the geographic coverage of the data
- include a time period (the edition after the colon), which can either be the period covered by the data or the month and/or year of publication
- be no more than 65 characters including spaces; longer titles are cut off in search engine results
- be frontloaded and have the most important information first; avoid starting your title with “An exploration of” or “Analysis of”
- include words that users put into search engines; people are more likely to search for “employment” than “labour market”
- not include a survey name or statistical designation (such as Experimental Statistics); these should be in the article summary or keywords
- be written in sentence case
Read more in our titles guidance
Disability pay gaps in the UK: 2018
Coronavirus and travel to work: June 2020
Population statistics research update: June 2018
Creating an article series
A series is used to link multiple editions of an article together. We are not able to mix content types in a series. This means if the first edition is created as an article, all future editions must be published as articles. It is important we get the content type and title right for the first release.
The series is created using the title of the publication and this cannot be changed once it has been created. Everything in the title before the colon determines the series and everything after the colon forms the edition
A new edition of an article should be created in the relevant existing series. This will link the latest release to any previous editions so that users can easily navigate between them.
When adding to an existing series, you will only need to update the edition (the part of the title after the colon).
This is the description that follows the title at the top of the page. The summary should:
- tell users what the article is about
- be under 160 characters including spaces; long summaries will cut off in search engine results
- begin with the most important information (avoid using phrases like “This article covers…”)
- tell users if the article contains Experimental Statistics; include a sentence at the end with “Experimental Statistics”
- not be a technical definition of the topic; you can do this in the article if needed
Prevalence, long-term trends and types of domestic abuse experienced by adults based on findings from the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) and police recorded crime.
Earnings and employment for disabled and non-disabled people in the UK, raw disability pay gaps and factors that affect pay for disabled people.
How the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the wider containment efforts are expected to impact on UK productivity estimates, and challenges on data collection.
Annual progress update on our transformation of population, migration and social statistics.
Any abbreviations should be written out in full in the summary and the abbreviation included in brackets. For example, CSEW should be written as Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW).
If there are any other terms that users are searching for, include these in the keywords. Both the summary and the keywords contribute to search, so you do not need to duplicate terms.
Structuring your main messages and analysis
We know that users only read the first 25% of a page, with most only reading the first section. Put your most important or interesting information first to make sure users see it.
Main points or main changes
All articles include a section at the start that summarises the main trends, analysis or changes detailed in the article. This section is called “Main points” for analysis articles and “Main changes” for information articles. It should include up to six bullet points each no longer than one sentence.
Best practice for web writing is to use an inverted pyramid style of writing. The pyramid means placing information in order of importance, so your main findings and conclusions should come first.
Split your main content into sections
The main body of your article should provide more detailed analysis or information on the trends or changes summarised in the Main points or Main changes section.
You can either create a new section for each bullet point in the Main points or Main changes section, or group the information into topics of interest and create a new section for each topic.
Keep your sections short; avoid putting all the information under one section as users will not be able to find what they are looking for in the table of contents.
Use clear section headings
Use clearly labelled section headings so that users can find what they need quickly. They should be short and concise with the most important information first, and reflect the topics users are interested in.
These section headings will appear in the table of contents and will help users find what they are looking for.
- Main points
- Knife crime
- Deaths by local area
- Use of administrative data
- Challenges of data collection
There are standard section headings that you can use to structure your content. View the "Article structure" section for more detail.
Use subheadings to break up your text
Use a new subheading within your section every time you discuss a new subject, trend or change. Put the most important point at the start. Subheadings should be a maximum of 75 characters, including spaces, to prevent the text wrapping over too many lines, particularly on mobile devices.
Avoid numbering subheadings (for example, 3.1 or 3.1.2) as these cannot be linked to in the text. They also slow down online users who often use subheadings and scan the left side of a page to find the topic they are looking for (see the F pattern). A short and clear subheading is more useful and will help users navigate by headings.
Warning patterns are used to highlight essential quality limitations to the user. They can be used to highlight if:
- Experimental Statistics, a type of official statistics that are going through development and evaluation, have been used in the article
- the research or methods being presented are in the early stages of development (and not yet official statistics)
Use a grey warning box at the end of the Main points or Main changes section to make users aware of any quality issues around the statistics or methods.
For Experimental Statistics, use the following:
“These are Experimental Statistics. The [method/data source/estimates is/are] currently under [review/development], which means [brief detail about how this affects estimates or data quality]. We advise caution when using the data.”
Experimental Statistics should always be primarily published as a bulletin where they are the first release of new data. An article using the data can be published alongside the bulletin if more detailed analysis is needed.
For statistical research and methods, use:
“These are not official statistics and should not be used for policy- or decision-making. They are published as research into [a new/an alternative] method for producing [topic] statistics. We advise caution when using the data.”
Change the second sentence to describe your release.
More information on the methods used and quality limitations of the data can be included in the Data sources and quality section.
The data section provides links to the most important datasets used in the article. It helps users find the information they need and brings data from different topics or themes together in one section.
This section is only included in analysis articles that contain data, and it follows a similar structure to the Data section in bulletins.
Provide links to up to five datasets that users are most likely to be interested in. If your article references more than five datasets, choose the most relevant. Use the standard format for each link. You can provide links to previously published data if it is used in your analysis.
You can also include a sentence at the end of the Data section to help users access any other datasets used in the analysis. Use the following standard text to link to the related data page:
“View all data used in this article on the Related data page.”
Articles can include a Glossary section to provide short, understandable definitions for users who may not be familiar with the terms or concepts described on the page.
More information on how to structure and format this section is available in the bulletin guidance.
If the main purpose of the article is to provide a glossary of terms and definitions for a topic, use a methodology page instead of an article.
Data sources and quality
Provide a summary of important quality and methodology information about your article in a Data sources and quality section. This section should only be included in analysis articles, as it is unlikely that information articles will contain data.
Using a standard heading for this section will create consistency for users and help identify articles from other content types, such as statistical bulletins.
Highlight any important information about the data source and collection method, as well as any caveats about the quality of the data. Use clear subheadings to break up the content and guide users through the information by topic. For example, use subheadings such as Data collection, Sample size, and Comparability with other sources.
Keep this section brief and link to any existing methodology information using clearly written link text rather than duplicating the content and increasing the word count for your article.
Our article audit identified that articles are often used to explain recent or upcoming changes to users and how these may affect the data.
Include any upcoming changes or developments in a “Future developments” section. Using this standard section heading will make sure users know where to find this type of information in the different types of articles. It will also ensure consistency on the website.
Use clear subheadings within the section to help guide users to the information they need.
This is an optional section and can be removed if it is not needed.
Research tells us that users have two separate needs from related links: to go into more detail or to find broader but related content. All articles include a Related links section to help users access this content.
Include between three and six links in this section. These links should be to:
- any related bulletins or articles (either published on the same day or previously)
- any methodology pages that provide further detail on the data source, method or project
- recent ONS publications that also reference this topic
- relevant articles that are published by other official organisations
Links should help users get directly to relevant content. Do not link to:
The Related links section should be formatted in the same way as the Related links section of a bulletin. Read more on how to format your links.
What to avoid
Appendices and annexes
These sections are traditionally used to provide additional or supplementary information, but they often duplicate content. Including these sections in online articles makes the pages longer and increases the amount of scrolling for users.
If the information in your annex or appendix is available on another page, use clearly written hyperlinks to link to the page instead of duplicating the information. If the appendix is lengthy and contains additional analysis or data, consider publishing it as a separate article that can be linked to from the article.
Authors and acknowledgements
We should present our data, analysis and statistics as a collective organisation, the ONS, rather than as individual authors. This is to ensure objectivity with our users.
Avoid including authors or acknowledgements sections. Most users are interested in the analysis and data and these types of sections often slow users down in getting to the information they need.
The contact name at the top of the page provides a direct point of contact for users to ask any questions about the article or to seek further information. The name provided should be the best person to contact with any queries about the article or the data; it does not have to be the author or the Deputy Director.
If you need to acknowledge a particular author or contributor, this should be included towards the end of the article. It should:
- not be the first section in the article; the main analysis or information should always come first to reflect users’ priorities
- be included in a sub-section (in the Data sources and quality section for analysis articles and the final labelled section for information articles) rather than its own separate section
- be placed beneath the analysis or information and data sections
See Collaborations for information on how to reference the input of external organisations.
If you need to refer to an external organisation that you have collaborated with when writing or creating your content, include this information under a subheading in the Data quality and sources section.
Avoid adding separate collaboration sections, particularly at the start of the article, as these slow down users and stop them getting to the main findings and analysis.
You can make clear that certain data have come from other providers within your analysis if necessary.
User feedback is really important to help us improve our content or surveys, but it is not the main priority for users; research shows that most users want to get the latest analysis and data.
Include any requests for feedback in the Data sources and quality section under a clear subheading; avoid including a separate feedback section in your article. This makes it available for those users who wish to give feedback without interrupting the analysis.