Preventing misuse of your data

Use “warnings” to highlight crucial limitations that affect how users interpret the data. They prevent misuse of data, with minimal interruption to the content.

Warnings are designed to stand out from your analysis so that users notice them; using too many, or including too much detail, distracts users. Only use warnings in the analysis section. You should not include any hyperlinks within the warning box.

The data in this bulletin come from surveys of households and businesses. It is not possible to survey every household and business each month, so these statistics are estimates based on samples.

How to write a warning

Do

  • Highlight essential limitations of the data to help users avoid misinterpreting the data.
  • Keep warnings short and clear; when text is hard to understand, people retain less information.
  • Only use warnings when they have a direct effect on how users interpret the content around them.
  • Include only relevant information; use the Measuring the data or Strengths and limitations sections to add detail.

Do not

  • Use warnings too often; it disrupts the reading experience, makes it difficult to understand the content and reduces the effectiveness of each warning.
  • Place warnings next to each other as they overwhelm users and get in the way.
  • Position warnings before your analysis; testing has shown that users find it confusing to read warnings before commentary.
  • Provide definitions in warnings; instead, define terms briefly in your analysis, and use the glossary section to provide more detail.
  • Include hyperlinked text to other sections or articles; instead, any further detail should be included in the Strengths and limitations section, or linked to from there.

Warnings should be short

Warnings have a strict character limit of 280 characters. The shorter the warning, the more effective it will be. Presenting too much information to users makes it less likely that they will understand and retain the warning. Long warnings are also problematic for users on mobile devices or with accessibility needs.

If you need to explain the limitations of the data in more detail, expand on it in the Strengths and limitations section.

The content design team can help you to write short, effective warnings – contact content.design@ons.gov.uk if you want to discuss a warning you are working on.

Next section: Data and methodology