Policies – is it always straight to download?

Dominic James, 15 March 2023 - User research

View our user research findings and options for presenting policy content.

Over the last few months the Digital Team have been busy building our new intranet. Content has been audited, new information architecture [IA] developed and web pages published. As we have worked on the content we started to discuss how we present policies. So, how they are found within the navigation and how we present on a webpage.


Like a lot of local authorities we have a lot of policy downloads. These tend to be large, with lots of legal terms and take time to make accessible.

Often policies get included with strategies, procedures and guidance. So we just need to clear what we mean by a policy.

So in this context, policies are the rules and workplace practices that a member of staff needs to follow.

Different ways to present policies

Getting access to view other intranets is always difficult as they sit behind the firewall. Several organisations have public intranets, so we could see how they present policies.


When we looked at the Barnado’s site they created a page for the policy and created the following headings:

  • is this for you?
  • key points
  • your responsibilities
  • download policy documents

Example: Recording policy

A user can then work through the headings before going to the download. This is important as the key points section can answer a lot of the everyday questions. A user might not need to download the policy.


The Co-op have a similar way of presenting policy content.

A web page is created for the main content with the following headings:

  • crucial bits
  • things to think about
  • your responsibilities
  • if you need further support

Example: Inclusion and diversity policy

On the page it clearly states who this policy is for and has a link to the policy download. Again not always taking the user directly to the policy download.

Buckinghamshire Council

On the council website we have created a long form template. We can take a policy document and create a series of web pages displaying with a side navigation. It helps users to search for content and to view on mobile devices.

Example: Guide to starting school or moving up to junior school

So from this initial online research we decided to ask staff how they use policies on the intranet.

Asking staff how they use policies

We were unsure of how staff were using policy documents so did some user research to find out.

User research

We produced an online questionnaire and sent to our staff user group and got 56 responses back.

The questions we asked focussed on:

  • how often do they use the intranet to find policy documents
  • main policies that need
  • how policies should be presented
  • how to access policies if they don’t use the intranet

Users could also add comments, which helped us to get further insights.

View our style and tone of voice for policies or strategies.

Main findings from user research

  • split between staff that regularly need to access policies and those that don’t
  • policies need to be concise and easy to understand
  • Human Resources policies accessed the most
  • staff prefer to have web page with summary of main points and link to download

Where do we put these policy downloads

At the moment, the plan is to publish the download versions in SharePoint. We can then add a link from the intranet page. SharePoint helps us with version control and ensures all the documents are in one place. As with any document, we need to ensure it is accessible.

Next stages

We will start to build the policy section on the intranet and ensure that:

  • web pages created for popular policies
  • key points clearly displayed
  • policies are easy to find using search
  • users are not taken straight to a download

Note: We are gradually creating the policy pages and these features will take time to develop.

Insights from Human Resources

Members of the HR Service desk mentioned that a popular request was on maternity leave and how many days can take off.

The answer was in the maternity leave policy but could easily be in the key points section. This would be better for the user - they can find the answer quickly. It was also good for the help desk to reduce calls.

So straight to download is not always the best option.