Writing for the Web — there’s still room for improvement across government

Today I was reviewing content writing guides for the web with a focus on what’s available for Australian government and federally funded organisations.

Australian governments have played a leading role in user experience and writing and content design standards for the web and content design standards.

It was not long after GOV.UK was launched in 2012 that the Australian government followed suit with it’s own digital reformation that has led to the current Digital Transformation Agenda .


It was with shock that I came across this Queensland Government Web writing and style guide. It’s a Word document!

A web guide that’s not available as a web resource? It doesn’t make sense. One of the fundamentals principles of the web is to create content that can be shared easily without proprietary software and linked to easily. All you need is a browser. The founder of the World Wide Web Tim Berners-Lee says as much in the FAQs about the web on his personal site.

There are other good reasons to avoid document-type formats like Word and for that matter PDF too, and the federal government provides good advice on publishing documents provided there is a good need. In the case of the Queensland Government Writing and Style Guide I cannot think of any.

Accepted advice is that if you publish content in Word then it must be available in HTML as well.

A quick search on Google’s site search shows that this is indeed the only location for this content on the web.

“If the Qld government can’t practice what it preaches then what hope is there for other departments.”

All this is surprising really since the Queensland Government was one of the nation’s leaders in consistent user interface standards in the early 2000s.

A writing guide for the webs that’s not a web document just doesn’t seem right

Don’t get me wrong. The government has come a long way when it comes to digital publishing, but there’s still work to do.

Every website owner, whether it’s a new website or you’ve been around for a long time must constantly review content for style and content design. That goes for websites developed in-house or by an agency. Standards that were set in the early days of the web may have changed. New trends may not be what your users want or indeed need.


Pat Birgan