What bulletins do

A statistical bulletin is a short summary of findings and essential commentary related to a new release of data.

Bulletins should:

  • open up information to inquiring citizens
  • provide easy links to data
  • include only the most important information
  • link to more detailed content for those who need it

The Code of Practice says, “Statistics, data and explanatory material should be relevant and presented in a clear, unambiguous way that supports and promotes use by all types of users.”

A bulletin, or set of related bulletins, will always be published alongside datasets as part of a “release”. A release can also include articles relating to the new data.

Bulletins follow a consistent structure, which is designed to meet user needs and priorities. This structure is designed for bulletins and should not be used for articles or methodologies.

If you have more to say, are writing about existing data, or need to write something for more technical users, use an article template instead.

We are constantly improving based on research and so there may be some small changes to the guidance; we will keep you updated with any significant changes on the Updates page.

Some content is better suited to an article than a bulletin. Contact the content design team at content.design@ons.gov.uk for guidance.

What users need from bulletins

Research shows that our users come to bulletins to complete three tasks. These are:

  • read analysis of the latest data
  • find the latest data, so that they can do their own analysis
  • find out about how the data were gathered and understand the methodology

Our bulletin structure has been designed and tested to help users achieve these goals. 

The order of the sections reflects user priorities for these tasks. The section headings clearly label the content so that users can find what they need quickly.

The order of the sections reflects what research identified as users’ priorities. The structure is the same for all bulletins to provide users with a consistent experience.

Keeping bulletins focused

Bulletins should reflect the topics that users are interested in, not the source of the data.

For example, it is more meaningful to tell users about the latest data on “migration” than the “International Passenger Survey”.

A bulletin can be one short page covering multiple topics, or – where there is clear user need, supported by research and/or analytics – split into multiple pages focusing on individual topics.

Consider the length of your bulletin, too. On average, users spend about four minutes looking at a bulletin. That’s long enough to read around 900 words.

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.

Where a release contains more than one page, some users may still want to read overarching analysis. For example, there are a number of topic bulletins released that report labour market data, but research showed that users still needed a Labour market overview.

If you are unsure whether to use a single bulletin, or multiple bulletins split by topic, contact the content design team at content.design@ons.gov.uk for assistance. We can also help you identify your topics.

Users expect consistency between releases, so it is best to only create new bulletins on topics that you expect to cover regularly.

If there is not enough to say for a full bulletin, or limited user engagement, consider streamlining your content. See our guidance for headline releases and data-only releases.

If you have something to report on a one-off basis, consider publishing an article.

We are constantly improving based on research and best practice. Any significant changes to our guidance are available on the Updates page.

Next section: Bulletin structure