Digital Services Style Guide

Service pages are used to outline all the steps a resident needs to take in order to access a City service and any supporting information they may need.

Write an actionable title

Titles need to be clear, specific, start with a verb, and be 58 characters or less in length. In a service page, you are outlining how to do something. The title should clearly communicate what a user will learn how to do. The title should also use the language a user may search to access this content.

For example:

“Look up your trash, recycling, and compost pickup days.”

This title starts with a verb, clearly states what a user will learn when they visit the page, and uses the language a user may search when looking for this information.

Choose a relevant image

Choose a high-resolution photo that gives context about the service. It should be people-oriented and warm, but avoid photos with identifiable faces unless you have a signed release.

Images must be a minimum of 1440px x 320px in size.

Write out clear steps

The steps a resident must take to receive a service from the city need to be broken down to their simplest form. Each step should include a single action the user must take, and there should not be multiple actions within a step. However, steps may include necessary clarifications.

Since steps are single actions, they should be in a command format and, like a service page title, start with a verb.

For example:

“Type your street address in the box below. If you live in a multi-family home, like a duplex or fourplex, do not include your unit number.”

This step gives a clear, single action a user must take, starts with a verb, and includes clarifications that are necessary for a user to effectively complete the step.

A service page may include 2-10 steps. If a service require more than 10 steps, consider creating a process page instead.

Add an application

If the steps reference an application like a map or widget that will help the resident access the service, include it on the page whenever possible.

However, if there are any clarifications that need to be made about how to effectively use the application, make sure they are included in the step.

For example:

“Type your street address in the box below. If you live in a multi-family home, like a duplex or fourplex, do not include your unit number.”

Write additional content

If there is any additional information or clarifications that may be helpful for a resident to know about a specific service, include that information here. Make sure you lay the content out well and avoid bulky paragraphs.

Select a contact

Contacts for a specific service should never be an individual, but instead include public-facing contact information such as a department name and public number, a public facility name and number, or 311.

Write an effective page description

Page descriptions help search engines connect your content to users searching for it online. Users will use these descriptions to decide whether or not your page is what they are looking for, and if they want to visit it.

A photo of a Google search result diagram showing the location of the page title, URL, and page description for Look up your trash, recycling, and compost pick up days.

Page descriptions should describe clearly and concisely what a user will find if they visit the page you’re creating. Page descriptions are only visible in search engine results. They will not be visible on the page itself.

How to write an effective description

In 2-3 full sentences, describe what is actually on the page in understandable, accessible language as if you were speaking to a resident. Try to use words or phrases you think residents would use to search for this content.

And, don’t worry about including your department’s name or the page title in the description. The page title will already be visible in the search engine results.

Page descriptions should be no longer than 245 characters or the description will be cut off. This includes letters, numbers, symbols, and spaces.

Include search tags

Tags are short phrases or words that describe a page’s content. They play a big role in helping users who are searching for specific content on our site find it using words or phrases they use in everyday life, and they help organize the content thematically.

Tags will not be visible to users on any pages, but they will live on pages in the content management system and in the code.

How to tag well

Tagging is simple. When you create a new page on the website, think about key words or short phrases that a user may use to find the content on the page you’re creating.

  • When you get to the tagging box on the page editor, type in one of these keywords or phrases and hit enter.
  • You will see the word or phrase appear below the box.
  • You may add up to ten tags per page.