Content quality checklist

ALPHA. This guidance is provided as a general starting point for anyone designing online content, or working on digital projects that involve designing new content or reworking old content. It is a work in progress, and we welcome feedback and suggestions to improve the advice. Contact us with your feedback.

Use this checklist to make sure that your content meets your standards for web publishing and that it is consistent, in style and format, with other content that is published online.

Style (common consistency issues)

You can find more detailed guidance on the presentation of some key elements in the Govt.nz styleguide, or you may have your own house style. These criteria are reasonably standard, but you can modify your checklist to include your own house style checks.

Govt.nz styleguide

Capitals

  • Have you checked your use of capital letters? Minimise use of capital letters to increase readability — especially in headings.

Bullets

  • Have you used bulleted lists to display list information wherever possible?
  • Is the list limited to 2–7 items?
  • Have you avoided nested lists?
  • Are they styled correctly?

Dates, numbers and contact details

  • Have you checked all dates and times are presented consistently?
  • Have you been consistent with the way you refer to numbers?  The recommended standard is to use numerals instead of words when writing numbers, but styles may differ.
  • Are contact details all consistent?

Page structure and navigation

  • Is there a clear summary that gives a concise overview of what can be found on the page?
  • Have you chunked the page into sections, so each idea is separated, with descriptive sub-headings?
  • Is the page title styled as a heading — usually h1?
  • Are your page sub-headings formatted in the correct hierarchy — h2 for main sub headings and h3 for any sub points? You can use further heading levels (for example h4, h5, h6) if you need to, but keep to the hierarchy and consider the impact on the overall page scannability.
  • Have you checked that every link goes where it is supposed to — including all navigation links such as left hand navigation, top level navigation and breadcrumbs?
  • If you have used show/hide visual features to separate sections of the page, have you checked that they don’t contain information that is central to the page topic. Only hide information that only applies to certain audiences, or is only relevant in certain circumstances.

Writing

  • Is the purpose of the page clear?  Does it help a user answer a specific question, solve a problem or complete a task?
  • Is the main point of the page highlighted in the first paragraph? Use the inverted pyramid style of writing to give users the ‘conclusion’ or the point of the page first, then follow up with details that they can read if they need more information.
  • Have you been consistent with the voice and tone defined in your styleguide? Voice and tone reflect the ‘personality’ of the website and guides how you write. Having a consistent voice is particularly important if you have many people contributing content, so that the overall tone is aligned.
  • Have you used active voice instead of passive sentence constructions?
  • Have you checked the readability level for the page? Use Word or an online tool to rate the readability of your page. We use the Flesch reading-ease scale or a similar tool.  A score of 65 or above is thought to be plain English. Sometimes specific terms can drag the reading ease down, so we aim for a score of at least 60.
  • Have you used keywords — that users will search for — in your summary, meta description and title, headings and link text, where they will have the most impact? You may not be able to add keywords to all of these fields through your CMS, but be aware of where you can use them to effect.
  • Have you highlighted the tasks people are trying to complete through the design of your content? For example are your calls to action, such as apply now, download the form or lodge a complaint, clear and obvious?

Links

  • Is your link text meaningful?
  • Is the purpose of the link self-explanatory?
  • Is your link text short? 2–7 words is optimum.
  • Do your links open in the same browser window? This is the general preference, but sometimes it is appropriate to open a link in another browser, for example when sending someone to a secure site. If you do send people to another site make sure you let them know what will happen.
  • If you are linking to a document have you included the file type and size?
  • Do you link to the same document or page more than once on a page? Have you considered removing extra links or making the link text identical so it is clear duplicate links go to the same place?
  • If you are using links to help people jump to sub-sections of the page, are they labelled using keywords, and are those words reflected in the sub-heading?

Accessibility

  • If you have used images, are they meaningful, and do they have the appropriate alt text? If they do not add meaning to the page, they should be removed.
  • If you have used tables, are they being used to display data? They should not be used for formatting. Do they have column and row headers?
  • Does video or audio content have text alternatives — captions, transcripts and audio descriptions?
  • If you have linked to a PDF, is there an accessible alternative? Have you checked the original is accessible? Does it have good, descriptive metadata, hierarchical headings and bookmarks that aid navigation, and have decorative images and blank pages been removed?
  • Have you have used HTML markup for all headings and sub headings?

Some accessibility criteria will require technical knowledge of how the CMS is set up:

  • Have you considered contrast between text and backgrounds, and sized text so your page is easy to read? This may be controlled by your CMS stylesheet.
  • Have you used HTML markup for all language settings?
  • Can you use keyboard control to do everything on the web page?
  • Is the site mobile responsive?
  • Do all online forms have accessible controls (clear labels and instructions, helpful error messages).

You may need to get help to fix some accessibility issues, but you should be able to identify them.

This checklist only covers high level accessibility considerations. There is more detailed advice available, and many checklist tools you can use to check the accessibility of your pages.

Detailed accessibility guidance for content editors