Tuesday 18 December 2012

The design principles for Devon & Cornwall Police online presence

This is the latest version of the Digital media team's online design principles and I wish to thank all those web teams who uploaded theirs to the internet. I hope ours are as helpful as yours were to us to all those that are now embarking on this thought provoking task.

Please note these may change especially if we start to get meaningful feedback!

Fulfilling Needs

  • The Force website needs to provide concise, relevant information that is easy to find and is accessible. User will not visit the Force site unless they actually need something. We are a public service and therefore when the public do visit we need to provide a professional and friendly environment that is clearly sign-posted so that they can find what need easily.


  • Professional, trustworthy, intelligent, considerate, informative, transparent.
  • All the services that the site provides, for example Online Crime Reporting, must be user friendly, intelligent and objective. 
  • Any apps the Force provide must have a purpose and provide a positive benefit to the user; they must also link back to the main Force website.

Working Smart

  • The ‘Create once, publish everywhere’ content model will be used. 
  • Editors will be well trained:
    • They will understand the site’s basic accessibility standard. For example they will add  alt (alternative) tags on pictures to provide descriptions for visually impaired users with screen readers.
    • They will understand the process of tagging content so that it can be used to provide improved useability and better searching. 
  • Content will be logically categorised with the user in mind, for example, force terminology will not be used unless absolutely necessary - for the public, 'specialist operations' does not obviously translate as a place to find information on the dog team.

Working Together

  • The Force website and applications will provide a wide range of information and services that users can find the majority of the information they will need without having to contact the call centre. This will enable the Force to concentrate more resources on the core business of protecting the vulnerable and catching criminals


  • The site will offer support to our partners by linking through to their material so that our visitors can find relevant and timely information.
  • We will provide our partners with location-tagged data feeds so that they have the option of displaying news specific to their area via their own website.
  • We will support our partners by promoting specific watch schemes such as neighbourhood watch.

Plain speaking language good design

The aim of the site is to communicate with no distractions; consequently it is really important that the site is designed with content in mind.
  • Promotional banners should not be given higher prominence than the content that brought the user to the page in the first place.
  • All users will be trained to write in 'layman's terms' and avoid jargon.
  • The use and placement of keywords will improve readability and assist with categoristation.
  • Thought will be given to all text throughout the site, regardless if it is a headline, main text or the labeling of a button, to make the site clear and easy to use.

Robust but flexible

  • It is essential that throughout the design and development stage we ensure we 'test and test again'. Time to do this will be built in and will involve members of the public where possible and appropriate.
  • Although difficult to predict, we will try and ensure the site is as future-proof as possible to allow for the incorporation of new needs, developments and technologies as they arise.

Intuitive (Don’t make me think!)

  • The site will use a consistent approach to the interface design so that the user always knows what is expected of them if they need to perform a particular action. Where icons are used, these will, again, always be consistent so that they cause the same resulting action. Consistency throughout the site will evoke familiarity.

Be open, be transparent

  • By being open and transparent and displaying more Force facts and figures, inconsistencies can be picked up more quickly in any data that is published. These inconsistencies could point to failing in the Force data recording systems that are in place. Consequently, an apology, review and correction would take place faster than if the information wasn't made available for public scrutiny.

The aim is that our online presence will contribute towards achieving the Force's vision ‘to be the best rural, coastal and urban police service in England’.

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