Author Archives: Paul McGarvey

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 

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. 

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

Title 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.   

Bulletin title: Coronavirus and the social impacts on Great Britain: 22 October 2021 

Digital content article title: Eight in ten adults think social distancing is important – but four in ten actually do it 

Digital content article titles can be written as questions, such as How green is your street?  

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”.

One example is the article Age of the property is the biggest single factor in energy efficiency of homes. 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.

In the example of the article Mapping regional differences in productivity and household income, users scroll down a page featuring an interactive map. Accompanying text pulls out the main trends and the user can select different areas on the map to see data.

Qualitative data

Articles based on qualitative data focus on the human impact and may feature quotes predominately.

The lasting impact of violence against women and girls uses quotes provided by third-sector organisations to provide qualitative context.

Email to find out more about digital content articles.

Superscript and subscript

Do not use superscript and subscript formatting for numbers within text (except in equations properly formatted as such).

For numbers used as footnote markers, write these in full size, preceded by the word “note” and placed in square brackets:

This may be affected by external factors [note 1].

Write numbers in chemical elements at full size, for example:


Interactive charts

 An interactive chart allows the user to change what the chart shows by taking an action.  

 Users can interact with a chart by scrolling, hovering, or using:   

  • buttons or tabs 
  • a drop-down menu 
  • an input box 

This does not include charts where the only interactive element is a tooltip. A tooltip displays data values when the user hovers over or selects part of a chart.  

Example of an interactive chart using input box

Baby names in England and Wales

When to use an interactive chart 

Only consider interactive charts where the information that is most important for the user cannot be clearly shown through a non-interactive chart.   

An example of a strong user need for an interactive chart is COVID-19 data at a local level. In this case:  

  • users are likely to be most interested in data about their local authority 
  • there is not a clear way of displaying data for each local authority without interactivity

Disadvantages of interactive charts 

 Interactive charts need the user to make a selection to see information. This may:  

  • make it more difficult for users to get messages  
  • hide the main messages from users 
  • prevent the chart from being useful outside of the ONS website, for example, on social media

They are also more complex and time consuming to produce; there may not always be enough resource to create an interactive chart.    


  • try to use charts that highlight the main points of interest or findings without needing user input  
  • consider using several small charts, known as small multiples, to avoid using too many categories in a single visualisation 

 Your charts do not have to showcase everything in the data. Expert users will be able to download and explore the data. 

Tips for creating an interactive chart  

  • Only include data that will be important to your user.  
  • Do not include all your data just because the interactive format allows it.  
  • Design your chart in a way that helps the user get the most meaningful information, for example, by allowing the user to easily compare certain categories. 
  • Provide context and help the user to navigate the data through annotations and the surrounding text. 
  • Consider starting your visualisation from a view that either shows the main message without needing any interaction, or helps users navigate the chart. 
  • Make sure the design of your interactive chart is consistent with other ONS interactive charts and uses elements from the ONS pattern library. 

What to do when a shorter release is too restrictive

If a dataset or headlines are not sufficient for a release, consider publishing articles alongside the data and headline release. The headline release still needs to work as a standalone product. We should not rely on users using an article to understand the headlines.

If there is a frequent requirement to publish articles alongside a headline release, consider whether a bulletin would be more suitable, bearing in mind the principles behind our products

Alternatives to supporting articles

If the supporting information is targeted at a smaller audience, consider other ways to share it with the right users:

  • users could get in touch to request copies of particularly long or technical information that is not relevant to most users.
  • consider whether a newsletter might be a better way to share important technical information.

Avoid publishing content that is not relevant to your data

Publishing content that is not relevant to a large number of users damages the user experience of the website, because:

  • it makes it harder for users to find content via search
  • which increases the chances of most users ending up on the wrong page
  • which makes users less likely to trust the website and our content
  • it makes the website more difficult and more expensive to maintain 

What to include on a dataset page

There are a small number of editable fields on a dataset page:

Section Content
Title A title is the most impactful way to help users find data. Use Style.ONS guidance to ensure that titles are short, clear and in plain English.
About this dataset A summary of what the dataset includes. Try to include words and phrases that users may search for.
Your download option An automatically generated list of links to the latest release and previous versions of the data.
Important notes and usage information An optional section which appears beneath the downloads list. This content is not very prominent, and an unreliable way to give users information about the data. Use sparingly.
Related  There are a number of different boxes that can be used to link to:

  • Related data
  • Related QMIs
  • Publications that use this data


What is a data-only release?

A data-only release is a dataset page that contains a downloadable spreadsheet or a customisable dataset. See the following examples:

If you publish a bulletin or headline release and are thinking about making it data only, you should consider:

  • whether users rely on the supporting content in a bulletin or headline release, and how they will be affected if that ends
  • the implications of users using the data without easy access to caveats, strengths and limitations
  • whether you might need to regularly include information or analysis that helps users understand the data

How a headline release differs from a bulletin

  • Main points are the only commentary provided: there are no additional sections for analysis or reporting
  • Measuring the data is shorter than the bulletin: unless essential, it’s more important that users can easily find a link to the QMI 
  • There is no “Strengths and weaknesses” section: key caveats appear in the main points section, anything else can be found in the QMI
  • The glossary section is optional, and should only be used where important terms cannot be explained in the main points 

There is no minimum length to a bulletin, but if a release includes any analysis, it must also include the mandatory bulletin sections

Structuring a headline release


Section Content
Other pages in this release When publishing more than one content page (not datasets) in a release, use this section to link to them
Main points Up to six bullets containing headline figures or trends in the data.
Bullet points can highlight key changes around certainty or methodology changes.
Can include one short warning for essential caveats.
[Name of headline release] data Links to the most relevant datasets referenced in this release.
Measuring the data Should link to more detailed Quality and Methodology Information (QMI) reports, methodology articles, user guides and planned changes.
May also include short updates on important changes, linking to separate pages when there are significant updates.
Related links Links to in-depth analysis or articles on this subject from the ONS.
Can include links to associated bulletins, such as revised or mid-year estimates.
Links to related publications or statistics that users might find useful.
Can include links to publications from other organisations.


What is a headline release?

A headline release is a short page, published alongside a dataset. It includes headline findings, alongside essential methodology and caveats for users.

Headline releases should be used when there is: 

  • limited interest or value in the topic area for users and stakeholder
  • no evidence to suggest users are regularly engaging with more than the first 500 words of a full bulletin
  • little to say about the data from one release to the next
  • limited capacity to publish a full bulletin each month