Skip to main content

Taking a user first approach to health protection web content

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Health Protection, Protecting the country's health

Transition_768x566Public Health England has made a commitment to moving its web content to GOV.UK, the single website for all government, and NHS Choices. We have a legacy of 150 websites acquired from our predecessor bodies which will be transitioned over the next 18 months.  Rebecca Kemp explains how we took decisions to prioritise, plan, engage and transition our content in the blogpost "How to rationalise legacy websites."

The HPA website is the largest PHE legacy site based on content and currently attracts over 750,000 views a month.  The HPA site has always been at the forefront of responding to emergencies and providing timely advice, guidance and information to health professionals and the public.  This transition is crucial so that our health professional colleagues and partners can continue to do their job in providing essential health protection services. These snapshots into the past serve as a reminder of some of the essential work the HPA was engaged in and how we responded digitally at the time:

New platform

The links also provide a lookback to the rapidly changing world of web design and publishing.   We are now moving our content to a new platform. It’s worth noting that we are moving to a site that has gone through extensive user focused design development.  GOV.UK has been designed to provide access to government services and information in a simpler, clearer and faster way.

In our transition of the HPA site to GOV.UK, the team has adopted a user first approach . This has involved interviews, surveys and discussions with end users to find out what they want and need. With that in mind, the Online Services Team focused on transferring:

The team worked with our scientists to rewrite our most popular content. We followed the Government Digital Service (GDS) style guide as well as our own in-house guide to ensure that our content continued to be written in a readable and accessible style while maintaining scientific and technical accuracy.  Not all content will be rewritten immediately. We’ll transfer essential content with minimal changes and rewrite it once time permits.

National archives

We will archive content that is rarely used as part of the user need programme. Users will still be able to find  it on the HPA site copy on The National Archives , via Google searches and using old bookmarks.  If we do need to update content, for example for a new or emerging infection such as Ebola, we can do this quickly and publish it on GOV.UK. What this means is that there will be less health protection content on GOV.UK, but the content that is there will be of high quality, accessible and,  importantly, exactly what our users want.

Partner working

As part of our transition, GDS listened to our users’ needs and developed the health protection browser, as a bespoke navigation tool which is very similar to our existing A-Z listing and will contain links to all our topics. This kind of development work with our GDS colleagues is a good example of working together to achieve a common, user focused output. We will also link and work with our other partners who are on GOV.UK, such as DHDEFRA and FCO, on joint  news stories such as new vaccines for babies  or livestock associated MRSA.

The transition has helped our internal content providers to focus their work on quality as opposed to quantity. It has helped us start a wholesale review of our extensive health protection web estate. This isn’t without its challenges and the team have worked at an amazing pace to ensure our users’ needs are met while also ensuring our content providers are satisfied and we adhere to the concise guidelines that govern GOV.UK. Like any transition programme, this one isn’t without risks but we are working as hard, as carefully and as fast as we can to ensure they are mitigated and managed.   We recognise the crucial importance of providing accurate and timely information on the web to support health protection activity around the world.  The maintenance and improvement of that capability has been our overriding concern during this transition.

Featured image via Government Digital Services. Used under Crown Copyright

Sharing and comments

Share this page


  1. Comment by Bren posted on

    Hello Mahesh,

    Thanks for the blog and it was good to know that the transfer of information would go at pace, but in a safe and effective way. I may have missed it, but will be there be a url link form the PHE web site to that of GIOVUK as I think it was something that came up on the DVLA transfer too.

    I agree with your point in regards to take time to look at what is archived and what is new too.

    Thanks for the blog and all you do too.

    Best wishes,


  2. Comment by Mahesh Patel posted on

    Thanks for your considerate comments Bren. All the relevant pages including the homepage will be redirected to the PHE site on