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1. Content

This section provides detailed information about different types of website content and instructions, recommendations and rules to be followed during the creation and maintenance of a website’s content and structure.


The definition of a website’s content and how that content is structured, internally and externally, is a key element in determining the effectiveness and maintainability of the site. This section describes the elements of information architecture relevant to website content and structure as well as providing detailed and practical information on the activities required to be carried out in order to systematically produce an effective, useful and maintainable website.


  • Content identification
    • Inventory of all existing and related content
    • Definition of needs for new content requirements
    • Re-adaptation of existing content
  • Definition of site structure
  • Definition of website navigation
  • Definition of site technical architecture and making key design choices
  • Labelling of site elements
  • DGT.D.2 to give linguistic advice/editing services in advance of translation (web style + clarity of original text)
  • Proofreading the content
  • Validate and approve the content and send for translation
  • Translate the content into required languages
  • Naming (labelling of site elements)
  • If necessary, select key parts of the site and build prototypes, review results
  • Definition of metadata and WAI elements, etc.
  • Database design (type of encoding, type of data, language, blocked or classified fields, etc.)

Quality Assurance/ Evaluation criteria


  • Existing content
  • Staff assigned to project (tasks descriptions, profiles)
  • Project description and planning instruments (calendar and detailed work breakdown plan, resources allocation, including costs list (figures), etc.)
  • Site specifications
  • Site production checklist
  • Promotion and communication plan


  • Detailed site design specifications
  • Specifications of user platform (browser environment, connection speed required, etc.)
  • Specifications of web server resources needed
  • Programming proposals based on functional needs of the future site
  • Site "storyboard", diagrams (site maps, thumbnails, outlines, tables of contents)
  • Content plan/schedule: detailed description of site contents
    (hierarchical list of all content (texts, picture material) by page; for each element, identify who is responsible for supplying the content; deadlines)
  • Prototype(s)
  • Schedule for site design and construction

1.1. Types of content

The purpose of this section is to present some examples of typical and important kinds of content suitable for publication on the Web. Many of us are faced with the obligation of publishing unsuitable texts for the Web on a daily basis and in formats that are not user-friendly. Remember: if you have to publish a text in a format or of content that is traditionally not suitable for the Web, at least try to introduce it with text that is.


  • Background material for the general public: explaining what the European Union is, its achievements, what it does and how its policies affect citizens is text that many institutions, DGs and services produce. Written in a journalistic style, and with no jargon, this text must also be short.
  • Summaries of key documents: all key documents should be introduced by a short summary, understandable by most citizens.
  • News: news items are not press releases. Press releases are destined for journalists who will then write their own news. If you want to include news in your sites, make sure you are able to produce short, easy-to-understand pieces of no more than around 400 words.
  • Short texts: short texts (maximum 100 words) for introductory content, slogans, banners, promotional buttons, hyperlinks, hyperlink descriptions, metadata, labels for website elements (such as the navigation), promotional texts, press conference backdrops.
  • Press releases: these are written by the spokespeople service and are destined for journalists. Directly linking to the Rapid database from news sections is not advised. Press releases should be linked to from "Press corners" or website areas dedicated to the Press.

If you want to include any other types of content in your website and it is not described in this section, it means that it most certainly needs to be introduced by one type that is describe in this section.


1.2. Content definition

The central theme of your site must be explored from all angles, above and beyond the Commission or the DG's structure, if it is to provide added value for the user. In relation to your target audience and the complexity of content, the thematic approach and paradigm of navigation will have to be defined.

The role of the site vis-à-vis the policy or activity in question should be decided. And the architecture as well as a map of the site should be drawn. Once available, the thematic site map should be submitted to the Editorial Committee of EUROPA and the Ceiii, if its character is interinstitutional, so as to make sure that the project does not overlap with other sites in preparation and that all relevant DGs are involved.

More links on organisational aspects in the Planning chapter.


1.2.1. Editorial style and policy

An editorial policy is indispensable for your site. It should provide authors and editors with guidance on how to handle the content of the site on the basis of its objective and mission and of the demands of its target audience.

On the basis of this policy, guidelines on editorial style and content authorisation procedures can be drawn up and distributed to everyone who is adding content to the site. This will guarantee a coherent presentation of information within the site. Editorial style will also have to be individually adapted to the target audience and to the degree of specialisation of each level of the site.

Write for your readers! Writing for the Web differs from writing for printed publications and content cannot simply be transferred from paper to net without being adjusted. Texts should be short and concise and navigation to related text obvious and quick.

In summary, the editorial policy must provide the online providers/editors with guidance on:

  • the objective of the site
  • the target audiences and main communication messages to convey
  • the article and style policy
  • the thematic/organisational structure and content aggregation approach and levels
  • the rules and procedures regarding the provision, approval, and use of content
  • the users’ feedback collection, management and analysis

For more information on writing for the Web, please check the following sources:


1.2.2. Populating the site

1. Inventory of existing content

The aim of this step is to establish a complete inventory of all the generic sites, pages, documents, services on EUROPA and other sites (Member States government sites, government sites outside of European Union, etc.) relative to the theme in question. This inventory could be done by the content providers (authors) and it has to be approved by the site’s Editorial Board.

Inventory methods:

Manual Method

Manual method based on the knowledge of different experts in order to identify the information regarding the theme.

  • Identify and interview experts, information officers and webmasters of the concerned DGs, task managers of EUROPA at the DG COMM and copywriters.

Automatic Method

  • Search in the Thesaurus EUROVOC of all the terms related to the theme of the site in question
  • Use of these terms as a search criteria for metadata (title, classification, keywords and description)
  • Use of these terms as search criteria for a search on EUROPA

2. Analysis of the existing content

Existing content must be carefully considered and possibly revised before it can be recycled onto your site. Since existing content will probably be dispersed over different sites, decisions will have to be made as to the level of integration of that content into the site (i.e. whether to host it directly on the site or make it accessible via a link).

Whenever content is integrated via a link, consider if a new introductory text is needed. If the target site is well structured and has been constructed using the CWCM, you may be able to reuse some of its content for providing this introductory text. Please keep in mind that several layers of navigational pages between the home page and the content might be frustrating to the users.

Much of the time, content only refers to text. But images, graphics, tables, audio and video are also types of content. These different content types should work together to fulfil a single content requirement.

3. Creation of a new content

Whether it is to introduce and explain a series of links or to fill the content gaps that may emerge from the inventory of existing content, your site is most likely to need new content. Editing new texts is one of the most delicate stages of the site creation. Not only must the texts respect the rules for web writing and be fine-tuned to the specific target audience, but they also must be approved by all the relevant DGs and services.


1.2.3. Navigation Paradigm

The navigation paradigm can be described as the imminent logic of your site. It should aim at presenting information in a way that is intuitively comprehensible for the user/reader. This is not an easy task in the creation of a multilingual and multicultural site.

You can start by creating a graphic presenting the structure of the site (usually a hierarchy) and use it to discuss the site navigation structure with the team. Try to imagine how to make the site more usable maybe by providing search boxes, context-sensitive help, breadcrumbs, indexes, site maps, navigation bars and structured menus.

How users will navigate around the site and discover the content they are looking for? You can for example choose a topical structure of your content or a structure with respect to life events. A topical structure for a service sites such as an eGovernment would for instance have the sections: employment, residency, taxation, etc. A structure following life events would have sections, such as ‘finding a job’, ‘building a house’, ‘the tax return exercise’, etc., i.e. all information necessary for an administrative event in your life to happen. The so-called matrix structure is useful for enabling users with different needs to navigate through the same content. For some example, some users would like to look for a document by its topic, its year of publication, its author, etc. As to the hierarchical structure (also so-called tree structure), the information gets more and more detailed level after level.

Try to understand the users of your site, the way they work and the way they think. Remember that the navigation scheme should not be too realistic either. In fact, sometimes this approach only confuses users instead of helping them. It is more important that the navigation is consistent throughout the site.

Remember that you will see the “global, top view”, but the people navigating your product will probably not. Even if you provide people with a map, they rather spend most of their time attending to the content of the site, not to the map. So while making your site map, try to represent the complex structure as clearly as possible. Always provide a single page that gives a visual and textual representation or overview of the entire site and which allows users to navigate directly from this representation.


1.3. Multilingual publishing

Europa should provide users with the web content they need either in their own language or in a language they can understand.

Language coverage – what languages for what content?

Content should be published in all official EU languages:

  • if users would be seriously disadvantaged by not having the content available in their language, e.g. unable to exercise basic rights, understand basic obligations
  • if needed to ensure the right to participation – to enable the public to contribute to the policy-making process through consultations
  • if publication in all languages is legally required
  • for stable corporate content.

In other cases, the range of languages should be evidence-based and chosen according to:

  • who will use the information and for what purposes
  • which languages the users are likely to understand
  • the availability of resources to translate and manage multilingual content.

Types of content

Content for a specialist audience may be in published in just a few languages, or even just one. This includes:

  • technical information
  • funding for research
  • speeches
  • campaigns, fora, blogs

News and other urgent but short-lived content can be published in one language first (taking account of target audience) with other languages added later – provided it is still of interest.

Coherence – user needs and journeys

Think about which pages users are likely to land on as they look for the information they want. Make sure they can find all the information relevant to their needs in the same language.

Don’t use more than one language on a page except in very specific cases, e.g. news content available only in one language combined with static multilingual content.

Planning a new site

  • Define a method for understanding and replying to incoming communication from the site (feedback or complaints), which may be in any language.
  • Define navigation policy for languages (including splash page, if any).
  • Describe the language choice in the “About this site” section, with a reference to the general language‑coverage page.
  • In the design phase, keep in mind that adjustments might be necessary, depending on the language.
  • Follow language-related IPG recommendations on URLs, file naming policy, site names, procedure for requesting a URL, etc.
  • When choosing the templates for your site, keep in mind all the relevant multilingual elements: keywords, metadata, characters ALT, WAI, etc.
  • When planning the promotion of the site, define all language aspects related to both the site itself and the promotional tools.

DG Translation’s services

Email DGT or call them on +32 229-55566 for advice on which languages to publish in.


1.3.1. Writing with translation in mind

Writing for different language communities

Brief the translators on the target audience.

Please let the translators know what audience you are running the website for so that they can adapt the translation style accordingly. Some languages make distinctions between younger/older, general/specialist ... audiences.

Write neutral text which needs minimum localisation.

Information specific to one language or country often needs localisation, i.e. customisation for the specific language community concerned. Translators will have to adapt this kind of information for the language community they are addressing. For convenience, avoid local references where possible, especially if you are not intending to put your text onto your site in every official language.    

If you need to localise, please always notify translators in advance which parts of your content have been localised.

How to proceed? Two possibilities:

  • Once you have finalised your original text and created a file for each language (see also below), insert the words you want directly in the relevant place in the corresponding language version.
  • If your text includes a list of several examples (e.g. of projects in different Member States), give priority to the information of interest to a particular target language community by putting it first in the list in the relevant language version.

If you just need to replace a language or country name with that of the target audience, you can ask the translator to do it for you.

Write addresses in their original language where possible and not in the language of your document. The same applies to proper names. It is rather difficult and time-consuming for a translator to find out the original name of a company, an organisation or a brand. The best approach is to give both, a description combined with the proper name.

Describe link contents rather than giving proper website names only. Remember that what is common sense in one language area can be completely unknown in another. Example: "Bundestag" could read "German Parliament (Bundestag)" or Bundestag (German Parliament).

Keep it short and simple. Remember that each page may be translated into over twenty-three languages, which will multiply any shortcomings (errors, excessive amounts of text, etc.) by the same factor. See the IPG recommendations on web writing or any of these style guides). 

Dos and Don'ts


  • Contact the Directorate-General for Translation (DGT) as early as possible so that when planning your project you can take account of the period required for translation.
  • When you send your content for translation, try to also send all navigation elements, links, etc. at the same time, as these are difficult to translate later out of context.
  • Provide the DGT with as many references as possible (documents and/or URLs) to help translators to understand the text and improve text quality.
  • When making a  Poetry request , specify clearly where the text is to be posted, i.e. give the full URL (
  • Give the DGT maximum instructions on text formatting, taking over any underlined text, adapting URLs, and page layout. This will greatly help to get the text properly formatted.
  • Rework the translation documents (ex: to ensure the translation coherence with the pages already online).
  • Be consistent on your site (terms/expressions used, etc.)


  • Mix languages on one page except in very specific cases, i.e. when the home page is also used to announce daily news on the site or news connected with the domain covered by the site.



1.3.2. Webmasters – formatting for translated content

Some recommendations for working with multilingual websites:

Creating a multilingual website

  1. Leave plenty of white space. Translations out of English are often longer than the original.
  2. Use relative table, cell and box sizes. Wherever possible, avoid absolute sizes not to cut off translations that are longer than the original.
  3. Where possible use styles and avoid hard encoded formatting information. This not only keeps your file size down but makes it much easier for the translator to concentrate on the text without having to bother with its formatting.
  4. Prefer plain text to images with text. But if you do use images with text:
    • create a separate image for each language, with the correct extension (_da.gif, _de.gif)
      and use the very same text as the "alt" description you can copy-paste it into the image afterwards;
    • be generous with the image size, since more space might be needed for the target language.
  5. Links and language icons. When you have to link to a page with content in a different language, insert the relevant language icon next to the link, so the user knows what to expect.
  6. The language selection tool must be available on every page. It is the only way of horizontal navigation between languages. It also provides an indication of which language versions exist.
  7. Multilingual templates . The translations in the templates are mandatory.

DG Translation

Email DGT or call them on +32 229-55566 for advice on for advice on multilingual publishing.


1.3.3. Multilingual index page (splash page)

On EUROPA, the main aspect and purpose of any splash page will always be the choice of language - and the number of languages offered will probably influence the user’s first impression.

A This link points to an intranet and may not work if you are browsing as an external user.  study on multilingual splash pagespdf [1.15MB](ordered by the Publications Office) contains a number of recommendations and standards, while some examples of multilingual splash pages can be found at:


1.4. Writing for the Web

Quick overview? See below the checklist for writing a web page.

  • Who is the audience and is the content relevant/interesting to them?
  • Does the page have just one (main) subject – and what is it?
  • Is the key information in the most prominent position (usually the top of the page)?
  • Does the page have an intro paragraph summarising the page’s key idea (answering the basic questions: who, what, where, why, how, when)?
  • Does the page contain only essential content?
  • Is background info linked to rather than being quoted in full on the page? (Don't duplicate content already available on EUROPA/the Web)?
  • Are all the concepts expressed as much as possible from the perspective of the reader, not the EU?
  • Are plentiful, meaningful (sub)headings used (to show how the different text chunks relate to each other)?
  • Is bolding used to highlight key ideas in each paragraph? (max. 2 items per paragraph)
  • Are paragraphs short? (max. 2-3 lines - even 1 sentence is fine).
  • Does each paragraph have just 1 main idea?
  • 3 or more items listed in running text should be a bulleted list or table.
  • If the page is long, does it have internal navigation links at the top?

People are much more likely to find your pages through search engines if the following are short, meaningful, and include keywords (at the beginning):


1.4.1. Basic principles of web writing

When writing web content, there are 3 basic principles to keep in mind:

  1. User task (provide relevant content for a specific audience)
  2. Clear phrasing
  3. Keep it as short as possible

1. User task

Before writing anything, answer these questions:

  • Who is your target audience?
  • What do they want to do on your web page?

For every passage you write, think:

I am writing this so that [my target audience] can do [task X, Y, Z, etc.].

You will have business goals in writing your text, but these must map onto some feasible need or interest of your target audience. You text should be useful and usable – not simply information in a void. What do you want your audience to do, having read your text?

How to write useful web text

  • Try to imagine which questions users would have in their mind on coming to your page (prompt yourself with the typical question words: who, why, what, how, when, etc.)
  • List these questions – in the order your users need the information
  • This can be the outline for your page structure. Each question could be a separate subheading, and the solution you are offering would be the text in that section
  • Don't leave users hanging when there is a next step – give them an option to find more information, make an enquiry – whatever helps them on their way.

And how not to do it…

  • simply include all the facts and information you have on this topic
  • try to reach everyone with the same content
  • use existing print texts (without at least reformatting)

2. Clear phrasing

Web texts are very different to print documents – and users expect content to be presented and written differently.

Generally the style is more informal and conversational than the legal/administrative style we are used to from much of our everyday working texts.

More on clear phrasing.

We cannot assume the public know as much about EU concepts (and terminology) as EU officials do. So texts for the public need to use words ordinary people understand.

P erspective

It is important to phrase concepts from your reader’s perspective.


  • Free circulation of labour” is a familiar concept to economists and policymakers. But individual workers/jobseekers would be more likely to see this in terms like “freedom to live and work abroad in Europe”.
  • Similarly, institutions buying in goods/services know this process as public procurement – companies potentially providing those goods/services are more likely to be looking for public contracts.

Obviously we need to use technical terms (jargon) used in the field of expertise concerned. But there are many other words around these that we can change, to give a text a simple, conversational style overall.

Studies have shown that this works best, even for experts – there is no need to reproduce an academic or formal style, for notional reasons of credibility.

Especially since many experts will be reading in a language that is not their own.

And while subject experts know their own field-specific technical terms, they are not guaranteed to be familiar with the extra layer of jargon, unique to Brussels:


WHY is clear phrasing important?

It's not just a question of style:

  • Web users are busy and need to understand quickly
  • To be found, web pages need to use the words our target readers are likely to enter into search engines (the way most web users find web pages).
  • Professional image – text on the web has a high profile.
  • Up to 20% of people have problems reading generally (older people, visually impaired, those with learning disabilities, the “functionally illiterate”) and will otherwise find pages inaccessible.

Clear and simple language” is a WAI requirement. The Commission has committed itself to these internationally-recognised standards in COM(2001) 529 pdf.

3. As short as possible

  • The substance – write only about what the reader really needs to know - and nothing more.
  • The words – in every sentence, use only the words you need to convey this key message.

Avoid the easy, running style we use for print documents – instead aim for spare and functional prose that makes every word count.

More on keeping it short.

WHY keep it short?

  • Information overload – readers are in a hurry, looking for something specific (not reading for pleasure).
  • Ever-more people are viewing web pages on mobile devices, with much smaller screens than desktop computers.
  • Easier & quicker translation.

1.4.2. Headings

Headings and subheadings help people:

  • find your page via search engines (especially the top heading, H1)
  • navigate around your page once they arrive

When formatting your page, make the top heading on the page a H1, with subheadings H2 and lower. If you do not use these formats for your headings, they will not be recognised by search engines.

Top (H1) headings

For search engines, H1 headings are the single most important piece of on-page text . Lower-level headings - H2, H3, etc. - also influence search engines.

H1 headings should use the same subject words as in your <title> tag .
Readers clicking on your <title> tag in a search results page will then be easily able to see that the page they land on is the correct one.

Subheadings (H2)

Because readers scan webpages rather than reading every word, subheadings are important signposts to help them find their way around a page. Subheadings are read 5 times more than body text.

Web texts should therefore have many more subheadings than print documents – even one for every paragraph may not be too much.



  • Keep them short – but not too short (aim for around 8 words). Use a telegraphic headline style without filler words like the, and, of.
  • Use concrete readers’ words (i.e. for non-specialists, avoid jargon and abstractions).
  • Express issues from the readers' perspective.
  • Start with the key idea, not the EU's perspective or lesser details (dates, etc.)
  • Clearly describe the content in that section and its relationship to other sections.
  • Be compelling, to attract the attention of scanning readers – especially expressing action through verbs rather than noun phrases alone.



Consider using one of the following formats:

  • Statement
    This can be a good way to put the key message first, e.g. Counterfeit products need an EU response, Sub-Saharan poverty – Africa to act
  • Question
    This is a good way of directly addressing users' needs.

    e.g. What is the EU doing about climate change? When will the new Regulation take effect?

    If there is a transaction involved, we can use 'you' forms e.g. How can you register? Where can you download the application form?

    (or to be even more direct, How can I register? Where can I download the application form?)

     Don't try to cover 2 questions in the same subheading – write separate subheadings/sections for each.
  • Call to action / instruction – using either:

    imperatives – Register for funding, Submit your proposal, or
    gerund – Registering for funding, Submitting your proposal


Whichever format you choose, try to stick to it throughout – using consistent patterns like this makes text more readable.




Wrong approach 

Correct approach

The Commission’s existing framework

(in a page on ethics in the Commission)

Ethics at the Commission

(includes specific subject words)


(in a page on press accreditation)

How accreditation is granted

(expresses a meaningful task for readers)

Your Internet - Your choice

(about action to give consumers a wider choice of web browsers – this is too slogany and general)

PC users free to choose web browsers

(uses concrete subject words so readers will instantly understand)


1.4.3. Link labels

Linking is the quickest way to get the user to the most relevant information. 'Link labels' have two purposes:

  • they are the words you use to describe what the user will find when they click on a link
  • they are a specific indication of the content for search engines (so should use the words your users will be searching with).

Writing good link labels

Unless you're promoting a particular site address, standard practice is to write a meaningful label for your links that describes the page you're linking to.

Wrong approach  Correct approach
For more information, see the EU tax and customs home page: For more information, go to EU tax & customs

To reassure users they've reached the right destination when clicking, your link label should ideally be as similar as possible to the main heading on the underlying page.

This doesn't mean you have to slavishly reproduce the whole heading in your link label.Sometimes the heading is not a suitable link label (too long, not clearly drafted, using jargon, etc.)

It's okay to rephrase the heading in your link label – as long as you make sure that enough of the key subject words from the heading are used in the label.

Wrong approach (heading on page linked to) Correct approach (link label pointing to it)
Detailed explanation of the different types of public works contract

Public works contract types

The label contains enough words from the destination-page heading for readers to make the connection when they land on that page.

Use these to help scanning readers pick out your links at a glance and help search engines find your page.


  • non-specific terms like "click here" (too general to attract attention)
  • empty phrases – like "information on". This is implied by the context – everything on the web is information!
  • type or category alone (report, regulation, communication, consultation, conference, etc.) – include words that describe the content.
  • document number alone.


Wrong approach  Correct approach
For information on EU fisheries policy, click here Information on EU fisheries policy
EU fisheries policy – More More on EU fisheries policy
In 2013, the Commission held a public consultation. In 2013, the Commission held a public consultation on energy security.

Commission communication on customs and trade COM(2003) 452

You have to be a real insider to know instantly what COM(2003) 452 means.

Commission communication – customs & trade - COM(2003) 452

This depends on your audience – but in particular for non-expert audiences, you should consider replacing jargon with more accessible terms.

Wrong approach Correct approach

Multilingualism  – education sector

Abstract / academic words.

Language courses/schools

On a page for students/young people, these are more likely concrete manifestations of multilingualism.
Commission delegation in Canada

Commission office in Canada

Only EU insiders know what 'delegation' means in this context. Its standard English usage refers to a group of representatives sent for a strictly limited time span.

In particular – when users can find the full, official title of a linked-to document or institution at a click, there is no need to reproduce this in your label. A shorthand version, with the key subject words (and possibly a numerical reference) is enough.

A handy device for saving space in link labels is the ampersand – & (instead of writing "and").

Wrong approach Correct approach
Overview of the EU’s relations with Iceland EU-Iceland relations
Experiences in the Use of Country Environmental Profiles in the context of Environmental Integration in EC Development Co-operation Programming Environmental profiling in EU development programmes
Regulation (EU) No 524/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 May 2013 on online dispute resolution for consumer disputes and amending Regulation (EC) No 2006/2004 and Directive 2009/22/EC (Regulation on consumer ODR) Regulation (EU) 524/2013 – online resolution of consumer disputes
Wrong approach
Correct approach

For information on funding applications, see the Commission's research framework programme

Apply for EU research funding

1.4.4. Keeping it short

Traditional print texts that we may use as source material for writing webpages contain lots of redundant wording that isn’t needed on the web. Here are some tips on text length and how to cut words.

Official names

No need to always spell out the full official titles of people, bodies, laws, agreements and other documents, etc.

Use only the key words/concepts readers need to understand. Make the name into a link, and this will take people to the full official title if they need it.

Wrong approach

Correct approach


UNESCO Convention on the Promotion and Protection of Cultural Expression

UNESCO convention on cultural expression
The essence of the convention is “cultural expression”, nothing more.

Minister for Financial Affairs Finance minister
Ministry for Social Security, Generations and Consumer Protection Social security ministry
(in texts mainly about social security - just use the relevant part of the title

Laws, official documents, programmes, etc.

Regulation (EC) No 689/2007 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 March 2007 establishing and amending the rules on data protection

EU regulation 689/2007 on data protection

White paper on environmental protection environment white paper
In 2002 the Council and the European Parliament adopted a Regulation establishing the European solidarity fund. In 2002 the EU decided to set up a European solidarity fund


The Copenhagen summit on 12 June 2005

The 2005 Copenhagen summit


Wrong approach

Correct approach

EU initiatives aimed at protecting human health from the risks which may be caused by dangerous chemical substances

EU initiatives to protect people from dangerous chemicals.
[50% shorter than the original text]

Where the Commission's services make representations to the authorities of the Member State against which the complaint has been made, they will abide by the choice you have made regarding disclosure of your identity. Where you have not indicated your choice, the Commission's services will presume that you have opted for confidential treatment.

If we have to contact the authorities you complained about, we will keep your identity confidential unless you state otherwise.
[64% shorter than the original text]

Empty phrases

Wrong approach

Correct approach

It is often the case that a complaint is sent…

Complaints are often sent…

The first thing to keep in mind is that you must update your pages regularly …

You must update your pages regularly …

quantities - in the majority/number of cases, a large proportion of, low level/amount/volume/extent of, a total of

many, some, few or most

time phrases - at (the) present (time) / at an early date / in the near future / in the 2008-10 period, period of time / on a monthly basis

now / soon / in 2008-10 / monthly, every month


Wrong approach

Correct approach

The participants have recognised that […] dialogue between these cultures […] is an essential factor in bringing their peoples closer, promoting understanding between them and improving their perception of each other.

Dialogue and respect between cultures and religions are a necessary pre-condition for bringing the people closer. The mass media can play an important role in the reciprocal recognition and understanding of cultures as a source of mutual enrichment.

It's enough to simply say e.g. “Dialogue between cultures brings people closer”.

The original passage says essentially the same thing about 7 times!

Irrelevant information

Wrong approach

Correct approach

When the “European Economic Area Treaty” (EEA Treaty) came into force on 1st January 1994, and Austria joined the European Union (EU) on 1st January 1995, secondary EC law also took effect in the area of social security (included in this are, in particular, Regulations 1408/71 and 574/72 relative to social security provision for migrant workers).

Social security in Austria is now also covered by EU law (in particular regulations 1408/71 and 574/72 on social security provision for migrant workers).

“Now” is what interests readers - not intricate historical details.


1.4.5. Clear phrasing

Avoid the following where possible:


As well as the Eurojargon you may be familiar with, there are other types of jargon:

Wrong approach 

Correct approach

provisions regulating the carriage of goods

rules on transporting goods
economic operator business, trader, company, etc.

Wrong approach 

Correct approach


mainstreaming [e.g. this approach]

establishing [this approach] across the board…

establishing [this approach], in all policies

Wrong approach 

Correct approach

inter alia

Various alternatives:


such as


among other things

one of the things …is
in fine finally, in short, in summary

False friends

In the EU context, these are mainly English words that are misused, because there is an equivalent word in French – even though the meaning is different.

Examples of false friendspdf Choose translations of the previous link .


This depends how familiar your likely readers will be with the particular acronym.

With less-common acronyms, even spelling it out in full the first time you use it is not enough – acronyms are inherently unclear, and repeated use throughout a text forces readers to continually cross-reference.

There are other ways of shortening long names:

Wrong approach 

Correct approach


European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (or, after the first mention, simply “the Centre”)


  • The active voice makes text clearer (and more engaging) because it identifies the actors in the sentence.
  • It introduces the action at the earliest stage, so readers can work out what’s happening.
  • It puts the actions in the order they happen, so readers can follow the logical sequence of events.

Wrong approach

Correct approach

Complaints may be submitted to the Commission in writing
(not clear who will submit)

You can submit a complaint to the Commission in writing
(even better: “Y ou can complain to…")


Where possible, write as if having a conversation with your users – so refer to them as "you", and your organisation as "we". As well as being more engaging, this makes it very clear WHO has to do WHAT (key information for your users).

Wrong approach

Correct approach

Complainants must quote the case number of the complaint in any correspondence

Please mention your complaint number every time you write to us

Also – consistently referring to ourselves in the third person seems self-important and can be misleading by giving the impression that there is a third party involved.

Wrong approach

Correct approach

If the Commission considers that there may be an infringement of Community law which warrants the opening of an infringement procedure, it addresses a "letter of formal notice" to the Member State concerned, requesting it to submit its observations by a specified date.

If we believe the breach may have been severe enough to justify us taking formal action, we will formally notify the authorities concerned in writing (in a "letter of formal notice"), asking them to respond by a certain deadline


Be explicit – use concrete, simple words, rather than academic terms. This is not dumbing down, but rather ensuring we don't overestimate readers' knowledge.

Wrong approach

Correct approach

employment opportunities


investing in human capital

(workforce) training / improving (workers’) skills / training and education


Stay objective/neutral/factual – it will really help the credibility of what you write.

Wrong approach

Correct approach

Solidarity is the hallmark of European culture.

Europe has a history of helping other countries and groups in need.

Our vision to maintain and support a robust indutrial base in Europe…

Our plan to keep industry in Europe…


  • Verbs describe the action rather than hiding it in nouns.
  • They engage readers and are more direct, concrete and conversational than nouns.

Wrong approach

Correct approach

The President decides on the internal organisation of the Commission

The President decides how the Commission’s work is organised

Since the accession of Poland to the EU

Since Poland joined the EU


These can often make the sentence difficult to understand (especially when double negatives are used.

Wrong approach

Correct approach

for not less than one year

for at least a year

… if they have not lost their entitlement to vote in their country of origin

… if they are still entitled to vote in their country of origin

does not comply with



This makes text seem self‑important and is harder to read. All of the following are quite acceptable:

Wrong approach

Correct approach

Documents, policy areas

environment white paper, information society

Titles of programmes, events, bodies

European year of equal opportunities, 7th research framework programme, environment summit / conference, German presidency, delegation


The general aim should be no more than one subordinate clause per sentence.



1.5. Optimise access to content

Simply creating and uploading content is not enough. To be sure it will be found and read by as many users as possible,  you need to:


1.5.1. Ways to access the site

There are several ways to facilitate the navigation of users in a site, that’s why the creation of added-value pages is encouraged. These tools are situated on the horizontal toolbar on the template.

Providing ways to access information improves both the accessibility and usability of information. All people attempt to find information in one of several different ways.


The search is a mandatory tool (it is possible to customise a specific tool, otherwise the webmaster must link to the general search engine).

If a site is large, providing a search function allows users to access information quickly.

The user will use the search button when he has a word or phrase that he wants to search for on the site. The search button appears on each page of the site.

What’s new

With a specific "What’s new" page, the user has unique access to all recent news/changes of the site. Webmasters are also encouraged to use RSS feeds to send the information to the user.

Examples Eurostat website

A-Z Index

An alphabetical repository of collected links and information. The index, also contained in the very top tool bar of the site, is an A-Z listing of most of the pages on the website, choosing a letter from the menu reveals all the pages listed for that letter.

Example: Commission A-Z index

Site map

To get an overall view of the site you can use the site map.

A site map is a web page that lists the pages on a website, typically organised in hierarchical way (categories and subcategories of information which are connected to each other). This tool provides users with a way of visualising the site's structure.

The site map can be used like a table of contents in a book to give you an overview of the contents and structure of the site. Each of these is selectable to take you to that part of the site directly. The site map button appears on each page of the site.

Example: Commission site map


List of answers to some frequently asked questions. Some questions that webmasters often receive can become a good FAQ section. The questions can mention what type of information the site gives, technical explanations, changes on the site, statistics (number of pages), languages covered, future developments on the site, contact information, etc. If there are several questions, it is better to regroup them in categories.

Some examples: EUROPA FAQs, Eur-Lex FAQs

For a complete list of tools, please consult Service tools chapter.


1.5.2. Search engines - getting your content found

If internet users don’t have a link to your site (sent to them in an e-mail, saved in their favourites or just posted on another site), they will almost certainly be reliant on search engines to find it. Therefore it is essential to optimise your content for search engines as you write.

The goal is to ensure that your site appears in the first page of search results - the only one that counts, as users rarely look past this page. In fact, few look past the first five results on that page.

Why do this?

Optimising your web pages for search engines can help your content reach many more people than it otherwise might.

If you need to reach beyond your core audience - people already familiar with your site or directed there through their work - you’ll have to design your pages so people can find them via search engines.

Search engines account for over 85% of visitors to the average web page. Not optimising for search is like sending web pages out into a vacuum - they simply will not be found by many people who might be interested in the useful services/information on EUROPA.

How to do it

What helps?


What can I do?

Using relevant keywords (for readers), especially in:

  • <title> tag
  • URL or web address
  • H1 headings
  • links / menus

(and also in the main body text)

When searching on the web, readers use the words they know best.

If your website doesn't contain these words, search engines won't bring them here.

Discover and use your readers’ keywords throughout your site and avoid jargon

Using metadescriptions



<Title> tag

To give a short description of what will be found on the website from the search engine result page.

The single most important way to tell search engines what your page is about and so get highly ranked for relevant searches.

Write a clear, compelling 150-160 character description of the site, to allow people to decide if this is what they are looking for.



How to write <title> tags

Headings (H1, H2, etc.)
(headings displayed in the body text of the web page)

Another key way to signal your page content to search engines – especially H1.

Use your key phrases in headings

Keyword density in the body text

Search engines rank your page as more relevant to a given search if keywords account for 2.5-3% of the total text.

Use your keywords often and
keep texts as short as possible - fewer words mean your keywords account for a higher share. Use keywords in titles.

Caption text and ALT tags

Search engines are blind. You have to describe your images and other media files with appropriate text.

Use relevant key phrases in caption text and ALT tags.

Keywords in the URL

Search engines look at URLs for  clues about page content.
Any words in your URL that match those used in the search are highlighted in bold in search results pages.
This may make searchers even more likely to click on your page.

If possible, use descriptive file names (i.e. real words) in URL. Drop unnecessary words such as 'and' or 'the'.
Use hyphens (not underscores) to separate words in URLs.
e.g. climate-change not climate_change or climatechange

Inbound links

The more inbound links you have from reputable/popular sites in a similar field, the higher you will be ranked by search engines.

You can create them yourself by -contacting owners of other sites and agreeing to link to each other's site.
-Adding buttons to your pages that users can use to forward links to their contacts via social media sites.
-But the best way to induce other sites to link to you spontaneously is to have good content (i.e. relevant and well-presented).

Internal links

Internal links point to other pages on your site.
By guiding visitors to these pages, they show search engines that the content there is also relevant and this increases the ranking of the page in results pages.

Link all the pages within your site (using relevant keywords).

Links containing keywords

Search engines read links more frequently than a page's body text, as they're a more concentrated indication of the content.

Always include relevant keywords in your links.

Unique content and frequent changes

The newer the better. Google likes fresh pages.

Update regularly.

Accessible content

Everybody should be able to use your site no matter what their disability or equipment.

Make your site fully accessible.
Check its accessibility with the available tools.

Site maps
Always include a comprehensive and up-to-date site map (especially if you have news content).

A site map is a representation of the site's link structure.
It allows search engines to index all the most important pages of the site easily, because they can access them from a single page.

You can submit a site map to Google.
A link to the site map should be clearly accessible from your home page at least.

Differentiating key words in the text

Search engine robots scan text to find words that describe the page's subject better than others.
You can help them by differentiating those words from the rest of the text.

Use layout techniques such as bolding and bulleting.

Do you need to register with search engines?

To be sure your sites are found quickly and efficiently, it’s best to register them with at least the leading search engines: Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft.

However, since these major engines use crawlers to find pages for their search results, if other sites link to you, they'll find you even if you're not registered with them.

Some search engines, notably Yahoo!, also operate a paid submission service that guarantees crawling for either a set fee or cost per click. Such programs usually guarantee inclusion in the database, but do not guarantee specific ranking within the search results.

Two major directories, the Yahoo Directory and the Open Directory Project, both require manual submission and human editorial review.

Google also offers Google webmaster tools, for which an XML site map feed can be created and submitted for free to ensure that all pages are found, especially pages that aren't discoverable by automatically following links.

Don't forget, also, to put your XML site map link in your robots.txt.

Guidelines and references


1.5.3. Metadata

Mandatory requirementThere are 7 metadata on EUROPA webistes that are compulsory: "Content-Language", "description", "reference", "creator", "classification", "keywords", "date".


View all IPG Rules

Information resources must be made visible in a way that allows people to tell whether the resources are likely to be useful to them. Metadata is a systematic method for describing such resources and thereby improving access to them. In other words, it is data about data. If a resource is worth making available, it is also worth describing it with relevant metadata so as to maximise the ability of information seekers to locate it. This makes metadata extremely important in the World Wide Web. While the primary aim of metadata is to improve resource recovery, metadata sets are also being developed for different reasons, including:

  • administrative control
  • security
  • personal information
  • Management information
  • content rating
  • rights management
  • preservation

Whether in the traditional context or in the Internet context, the key purpose of metadata is to facilitate and improve retrieval information.

How search engines work

Search engines consist of a software package that searches the web, extracts data and organises it in a database. People can then submit a query using a web browser. The search engine locates the appropriate data in the database and displays it via the browser. Search engines usually have three major elements:

  • The spider, also called the crawler, harvester, robot or gatherer. The spider visits a web page, reads it and then follows links to other pages within the site. The spider returns to the site on a regular basis, such as every month or two, to look for changes/updates.
  • The index. Everything the spider finds goes into the index. The index is like a giant book containing a copy of every web page that the spider finds. If a web page changes, then this book is updated with new information.
  • Search engine software: this is the program that sifts through millions of pages recorded in the index to find matches to a search and ranks them in order of what it believes is most relevant.

At the global level, internet search engines were developed to search across multiple websites. Unfortunately the results offered are often large in numbers, but not very relevant. This is what information scientists call “high recall” but “low precision”. The low precision means not being able to locate the most relevant and useful documents. The introduction of the <META> element as part of HTML coding was in part an attempt to encourage search engines to extract and index better structured data such as description and keywords.

The metadata are also very important for the EUROPA search engine. They are used to categorise the results of a query (Content-Language and Classification) and to influence their ranking in the result list (Keywords, Description and Date).


Because of its prime importance in assisting information retrieval, metadata should be among the first things to consider where creating a site.


Metadata are one of the first steps you have to follow when creating a new site and must be present on all pages. Developing a website without metadata is like stocking a library without providing an index system.

Descriptive META information has many benefits. They can make information easier to locate by providing search tools with more detailed indexing information, rate information to protect minors from viewing certain content, as well as a variety of other things. It is also related to the management of a website in that it helps provide meaning for a document's role in a global or local information space.

Metadata provide information for:

  • specification of the character set to be used
  • identifying documents (reference, title, language, etc.)
  • management and administration purposes (expiry date, author, etc.)
  • classification (description, etc.)

On EUROPA, only 7 metadata are compulsory: "Content-Language", "description", "reference", "creator", "classification", "keywords", "date".

Besides these compulsory metadata, the information provider may introduce other metadata if he deems them necessary for management purposes (e.g. "DateAlarm, "WritePermission", "Version").

For the full list of metadata as identified by the "Dublin Metadata Core Element Set", see

Please note that it is strictly forbidden to include in the metadata any information relating to the firms involved in designing, producing and updating web pages for EUROPA.

Detailed information on metadata is given in the "Instructions" section.

EUROPA templates content 7 compulsory metadata to fill in;

  1. <meta http-equiv="Content-Language" content="en">
  2. <meta name="description" content="Content should be a sentence that describes the content of the page">
  3. <meta name="reference" content="SITE_NAME">
  4. <meta name="creator" content="COMM/DG/UNIT">
  5. <meta name="classification" content="Numeric code from the alphabetical classification list common to all the institutions">
  6. <meta name="keywords" content="One or more of the commission specific keywords + European Commission, European Union, EU">
  7. <meta name="date" content="Date of creation of the page">


Translation of relevant metadata should be requested in all languages in which one intends to publish a site. Translation availability and translation delays should therefore be taken in mind when planning a new site available in various languages.

Evaluation criteria

Metadata should be compliant with the IPG recommendations.

Further evaluation could be done by running relevant tests of the page(s) concerned in different search engines and measuring the accuracy and effectiveness of the information retrieved.


List of defined metadata + all necessary translations

Work Guidelines and references


Further information on multilingualism issues can be requested by email to the EUROPA team.

Top Instructions for inserting the compulsory metadata

Each descriptive element has a NAME attribute and a CONTENT attribute in the following format:

<meta name="Keywords" content="European Commission, institutions, European Union, EU">

All metadata can have multiple values, except "REFERENCE"; "DESCRIPTION" and "DATE". The syntax for listing multiple values is always the same, i.e. separation by commas.


Change language code
<meta name="Reference" content=


<meta name="Creator" content=" COMM/COMM/A5">
Yes (commas must separate multiple entries)


Change language code
<meta http-equiv="Content-Language" content="en">
Yes (commas must separate multiple entries)


<meta name="Classification" content="16000">
Yes (commas must separate multiple entries)


  • Translate.
  • The "keywords" metadata must appear in the language of the document (for pages in Greek, the keywords must be in Greek).
  • For equivalents in other official languages of the terms included in the classification table, see the Eurovoc thesaurus and translations in the IATE database.
<meta name="Keywords"content="Europe Direct, Communication, Citizens, European Commission, European Union, EU">
Yes (commas must separate multiple entries)




<meta name="Date" content="21/06/2009">
Top "META NAME=Classification"

Here is the list of the top level Classification codes (2 digit numerical code). The metadata "Classification" must contain at least one of these top level codes. If no further precision is needed, the code is identified by the main code, followed by 3 zeros. It is however also possible to indicate a more detailed classification by using the extended 5 digit classification codepdf(75 kB) Choose translations of the previous link .  

Joint alphabetic list of document classification by subject for all the institutions


Agriculture, farming


Budget, financing, fraud


European citizenship, right to vote, ombudsman, protection of privacy


Information society, communication, information, audiovisual, telecommunications, public opinion


Competition, state aid


Consumers, distribution, civil defence, nuclear safety, food safety


Culture, tourism, sport


Education, teaching, vocational training, youth


Enlargement, accession of new states


Employment, work




Type of business, company law




Tax system






Justice and home affairs, asylum, judicial cooperation, police cooperation, Schengen, visa, immigration, external frontiers, fight against crime, drugs, terrorism


Free movement of capital, finance


Free movement of goods, customs, public contracts, standardisation


Free movement of persons, right of establishment, workers


Free movement of services, insurance, banks, credit, right of establishment, savings, public contracts




Regional policy, OCT


Social policy, public health


Research & development


External relations, CFSP, development cooperation, humanitarian aid


Trans-European networks


Respect for human rights, racism, xenophobia




Economic and monetary union, euro, single currency




Language, multilingualism, translation, interpretation


Administration, management and human resources policy


1.6. Linking policy

Make sure that all possible links to information present on the ‘horizontal’ EUROPA site have been taken into account: summaries of EU legislation, statistics, publications, EUR-Lex, press releases, etc. Please keep in mind the WAI accessibility while creating hyperlinks. It is necessary to create hyperlinks which make sense when read out of context (please do avoid expressions ‘Click here’ or ‘For more information’). If your links are images, you will need to add alternative texts. If your source and destination languages are not the same, you will need to add a language icon for the user. The same goes for the PDF documents, the user should be informed by the PDF icon and the size of the document should be given (if you use CWCM, they will be added automatically) .

If users/readers by following a link leave your portal, make this fact obvious to them.

For the creation of hyperlinks, please see the section in DESIGN chapter about design of the links.

Deep versus general links

A portal of links, where the portal administration “only” provides an overview and then makes more detailed information accessible through carefully edited hierarchies of links, is only possible where concise, well structured, high quality information and services already exist elsewhere, eliminating the need for editing or rewriting existing information.

Two possibilities are taken into account:

Deep links

By deep linking into a site, the linking portal allows the users to bypass the home page of the linked portal, a page that often contains terms and conditions and proprietary information relevant to the use of the linked portal. Deep links that go directly to a portal’s interior pages enhance usability because, unlike general links, they specifically relate to users’ goals and context.
A major drawback of deep links is their greater dependency on small changes in the target site. For this reason, the management of deep links can be difficult. In order to avoid broken links, deep linking requires immediate information on the changes on the pages where the links refer to. Inside EUROPA, this could be done automatically, for example by means of a logical access mechanism to pages, hiding the intricacies of the physical arrangement of information on a particular site. A nice example of this principle can be found on EUR-Lex, where a logical linking mechanism called UDL (Uniform Document Locator) has been implemented. Use of a Corporate Web Content Management (CWCM) also facilitates the link management of all pages and documents residing inside the CWCM. Unfortunately there is no simple solution for the links pointing outside of EUROPA.

General links

In this case, the users are provided with links giving direct access to a top entry level or section of other sites where they should then search further for the information of specific interest using the site’s navigation/services. The editing and formatting or thematic organisation of this site may be totally unrelated to the one of the portal.

Upcoming enhancements

The use of syndication techniques and web services can simplify the reusability of content. These facilities are already provided by portals such as EU-Bookshop and the EU Press Room and can also be used by sites produced by means of the Corporate Web Content Management system.


1.6.1. Links to external sites

Link to pages that provide high-quality content that is different from the information on your page but relevant to it.

The Commission is not legally responsible for the content of the sites we link to, but their quality, content and tone should not reflect badly on us.

Do link to pages that

  • deal with an issue, policy or outside organisation in greater depth than is appropriate on EUROPA;
  • are relevant and useful to a wide audience;
  • are authoritative, accurate and up-to-date;
  • are open to the public (no password-protected sites);
  • are representative - if your page covers a range of countries, organisations or languages, then your links should too.

Do not link to pages that

  • are primarily commercial – i.e. that carry paying advertisements, or are chiefly concerned with sales;
  • are offensive – e.g. contain hate speech, incite discrimination or are otherwise likely to cause grave offence;
  • contain misleading information or unsubstantiated claims.

If in doubt do not link. The EUROPA team reserves the right to disallow or remove any such links.

Good practice

  • Verify the content before and during linking. Remove the link when the site is no longer relevant or no longer in line with original objective of the link.
  • Check that the sites you link to have credible privacy policies that guarantee compliance with relevant privacy laws.
  • Link to a site only if you are confident that the site-owner would not object to the link. Obtain permission if possible. If they do object, remove the link immediately.
  • Do not link to Word or PDF documents on other sites, but only to HTML web pages.
  • Use plain text links instead of images or logos. If you want to enrich the text link with an icon or the official logo of your partners or social network pages, you must ensure the image fully comply with the legal requirements of the branding or registered trademark. The overall look and feel should not give the impression that EU institutions endorse, support or make publicity of commercial brands (e.g. enormous or manipulated logos of primarily commercial companies).
  • Users should be able to identify external links before they click on them. If this is not self-evident from the link text, then make it explicit, e.g. by placing all outside links in a separate list:

          External links:
           Millennium development goals  (United Nations)

  • Do not open outbound links in a new browser window. In order to enhance the user experience and to be in-line with usability standards, please ensure that all links open in the same browser window.

1.6.2. Design of links

The content about the design of links is in the chapter DESIGN


1.6.3. Eur-Lex, EU-Bookshop and TED: how to establish links?

The Publications Office provides precise instructions for establishing links to the documents.


EUR-Lex ( provides direct free access to European Union law. The system makes it possible to consult the Official Journal of the European Union and it includes inter alia the treaties, legislation, case-law and legislative proposals. It offers extensive search facilities.

You will find how to create links to documents on their website.

For more information about content and functionalities of the site, please visit the page About EUR-Lex.


The deep link should have the following format:<catalogue number>:<navigation language>

The deep link is composed of the first 9 characters of the catalogue number, followed by the 2 characters of the navigation language you want for the information display. For example, for displaying the details related to publication KA7007020 in the navigation language English, the link will look as follows:

You can also add the language code to the 9 characters of the catalogue number:

Please note that due to the strictly language based architecture of the EU-Bookshop, the display of the publication language is coupled with the navigation language chosen, with fallback to EN. Therefore, if no navigation language encoding is applied, EU-Bookshop will choose EN by default:

If you implement such links on your website engine or in-house application, we recommend to dynamically link to the current navigation language of the user. It will be of course more user friendly to keep the same browsing language when going from your website to the related EU-Bookshop pages.

TED (Tenders Electronic Daily)

The links to TED documents have the following format:

where xxxxxx-xxxx must be replaced by the number of the document (ex: 123456-2006) and yy by the language code (ex: EN for English).

For complete HTML code of the link, ready to copy paste into your HTML page code, please click on the ‘URI’ icon in the documents: a small window with the code will open.


1.6.4. Links to EUROPA

Links to EUROPA from external sites should meet the following conditions: 

  1. Links should not give the impression that the EU institutions endorse or support the objectives or contents of the host website or the organisation managing it.
  2. If links are made from a frames-based website, the pages should not be displayed as frames on that site in a way that might mislead users as to their true origin.

1.7. Editorial guidelines

In-house guides

Language aids

General writing guides

External sites on web writing

Training course learning material in French