Five ways content designers are changing the ONS

ONS collects and publishes statistics about the economy, population and society. Our work informs decisions about everything from how the country is run to what people name their children.

So it’s important that what we publish is designed to meet the needs of the people who use our services, whether they are filling out a survey or trying to understand how the economy is performing.

That’s where content designers come in – we help to make sure that the ONS produces the right content to help users achieve what they need to. Here are some of the ways we do that.

Our content design team is growing – we’re looking for a Content Designer to work on the ONS website (the closing date for applications is 7th June).

We contribute to multidisciplinary teams

Most digital projects at ONS are delivered by teams of people who have the different skills needed to get the job done. As content designers, we collaborate with people in lots of different roles.

We work with user researchers to help them design tasks to find out what people need from content that ONS produces and test new ideas. Performance analysts help us use data to understand how people interact with our website. We work with designers to create prototypes and understand how users interact with us. We help developers turn our concepts into digital products.  

Three people sticking Post-It notes on a whiteboard in a meeting room

Here are some of our content designers at a workshop we held to draft a set of principles we will use to guide our work.

We also spend a lot of time working with people from other parts of the ONS. A big part of our work is about building relationships with statisticians and economists to help them create and publish their work.

Working this way means we’re constantly learning from, and contributing to, other parts of ONS. We’re always keen to try out different collaboration techniques, like design sprints.

We use research and data to improve the way ONS collects and shares the country’s statistics

Content designers are an integral part of some of the biggest projects in the organisation. Right now, we’re leading a redesign of statistical bulletins; the product we use to share our analysis of all new statistics. Bulletins are our most used product, attracting over 20,000 pageviews each day.

To inform this work, we’re testing new ways of sharing information with people who write content in ONS. We’ve developed content design dashboards which show how a bulletin is used, who is using it, the terms they search for, and how easy to understand the language on the page is. We’ve done research looking at how long a bulletin should be, and how content should be structured to meet user needs.

We also developed and manage Style.ons, the style guide used by all UK government statistics providers.

Content designers influence the way we collect data by making sure our surveys are clear and easy to use. We will also contribute to 2021 Census; a once-in-a-decade event that affects every person in the UK.

We’re part of the ONS content design community of practice

Working across teams and departments, our community of practice meets regularly and helps to define best practice and standards of content design in ONS.

We put a lot of emphasis on learning from each other and helping to solve problems – recent meetups have looked at user journey mapping and how we can work most effectively with the rest of the business.

We’re part of something much bigger

The idea of a “content designer” is a pretty new one. In fact, the job of a content designer was defined by the Government Digital Service (GDS) just a few years ago. As an organisation, ONS works at “arms-length” from central government, but we have close ties to the UK government content community.

We have presented at the government content conference (ConCon), we attend meetups, and have hosted events for other government content designers at ONS. The community is a fantastic resource for training, sharing ideas, and getting support with common challenges.

We’re also part of the UK government Digital, Data and Technology framework, which means we share the same definitions of success and career progression as the rest of the civil service.

We take training very seriously

Training is kind of a big deal around here. This year, Laura from our team went to Confab – the closest thing to a content design pilgrimage – in Minneapolis. The rest of the website content design team have all attended sessions at the NNg London UX Conference and have credits towards a user experience qualification.

In the next few weeks we’re bringing in content design experts to run a two-day intensive content design course with 16 people from across the ONS. Three of us are on or have been part of leadership training courses in the past two years.

We also provide training for the rest of the organisation, helping people build the skills and understanding they need to take a user-centred approach to content. Our team runs courses on writing for the web, accessibility, writing for users and house style every month.

We’re playing a big part in transforming the way ONS works, putting users at the heart of everything we do.

If you’re interested in joining us, apply for this content designer role before the 7th June.