Focus on user needs and services
Give people what they need and direct them to services. Your website’s purpose is not to tell people what to think about the government or your agency.
Why this is important
People come to a government website to do something. This could be completing a transaction or learning what they need to do. If they cannot perform their task, people can feel stuck.
People expect digital interactions in their lives, including their government interactions. It’s our job to meet this expectation.
How to do this in your writing
When writing, ask yourself questions like:
- How will someone use this information to take action?
- What do they need to do on this page?
- Have you given them enough information to complete their task?
“We just want people to know this” is not a good reason to include content.
Make sure all your content addresses users’ needs.
- Make the top user needs central in your writing, using language familiar to the user. Do not prioritize the names of your program or people.
- Talk about the services and benefits available today. People are most interested in the current state.
- People are not interested in how we got here or what’s coming.
- Do not apologize for the limits of a program.
Encourage your stakeholders to focus their content on requirements instead of recommendations.
- Use must when telling people what they need to do.
- Use should as little as possible and only for recommendations.
- When stakeholders want to use should, ask them if people have to do something or if it’s a suggestion.
- Learn more about how to write about requirements at plainlanguage.gov.