Defra: Smarter Guidance project

Scroll content designers help Defra reduce its published guidance by 80%


A Scroll team provided the content expertise for Defra’s Smarter Guidance programme, radically streamlining and improving all Defra’s guidance on GOV.UK.

Defra chose Scroll to help them deliver this ambitious programme because of our experience with content design and stakeholder management in government.

The challenge

In 2012, Defra and its agencies owned 120,000 pages of guidance across multiple websites. Guidance was often out of date, overlapping or unclear. Businesses reported that guidance was difficult and time-consuming to read and understand. 75% of businesses saw lack of clear information as a barrier to compliance.

The Smarter Guidance programme made guidance simpler and clearer, by stripping out duplicates, archiving old content and radically rewriting current guidance.  The goal was to reduce guidance content by 80%, without leaving gaps in what people need to know.

The solution

Scroll supplied a team of content designers, the content lead and the head of content, to scope and deliver the work. The team used agile methods – agile is the best way to get excellent results, fast. We needed to get moving – there was a mountain of 120,000 pages to review, sort, archive or rewrite.

As always, we started with user needs – working out what users of this guidance really needed from it. We used analytics, direct user research, transaction and call centre reports to give us an evidence-based foundation for the redesigned content.

Part of our user research was to check what language people actually use. For example, government officials call the implement for tagging cattle an ‘applicator’. Farmers call them ‘taggers’. So, we say ‘taggers’ in the new guidance.

Then the content designers wrote and structured each piece of guidance to meet the user need. Scroll content designers use plain English as standard, and are experts in designing content for GOV.UK.

Each piece of guidance went through quality assurance and factcheck by subject matter experts. This sometimes meant advocating for the content against strong challenges from stakeholders. Scroll’s content teams have delivered several major government projects, so we know how to keep stakeholders onside and projects on track.

80% less content – while still meeting all user needs.

Content is clearer and quicker to read and act upon.

Significantly reduced the administrative burden on users who need to engage with this content.

What they say…

“Scroll has played a vital role in helping Defra and its agencies to reduce the volume of their external guidance on GOV.UK by over 80%, making it quicker for users to access and easier for them to understand how to comply with the law.

By taking a user-led approach, they have rewritten over 100,000 pages of guidance, reducing it to less than 20,000 pages and providing clear, succinct, consistent guidance on regulatory obligations to GOV.UK principles and standards.”

Dr Ann Davies
Project Manager, Smarter Guidance, Defra

About the client

Defra has a complicated role and a complicated audience. 

The department leads on a range of environmental, food, farming and rural issues.

Its audiences are specialist – from farmers and landowners to foresters, environmental managers and food import/export businesses.

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