Public & visitor feedback
How-to page
Use to help constituents complete an action and achieve a goal.

Why use this content type?

The How-to page helps users do something—an essential reason for visiting Mass.gov. Even if people are looking for information, they usually need that in order to achieve some goal, whether it be applying, paying, registering, or submitting. How-to pages describe the steps needed to take such actions.

Alternatives to How-to pages

Use a Guide if you need to walk people through an involved process or service that has interrelated steps. They’re especially useful if the process involves multiple organizations and links to more detailed information, which can be called out via bold Key actions boxes.

Customize header text

How-to pages include optional sections under the “Details” and “Additional info” tabs that by default have headers such as What you need and More info. Those headers may or may not accurately reflect your content.
You can override those default section headers by going to the bottom of the Quick Actions section under the “Overview” tab and checking the Customize header text box.
Choosing Customize header text will display optional header fields across the How-to page’s sections that you can fill in as you like.
Customized section header field
If you leave any of these fields blank, then the default header (e.g., What you need) will appear on your page if there is content in that section.
The more precise the wording is in your section headers, the easier it is for Mass.gov visitors to scan for information they need to complete a task.
Rather than forcing eligibility information into a section titled What you need, for example, you could change the title to Eligibility requirements to make the information clearer and easier to find.
Another example: You could replace the general Downloads section header with something more specific, such as Required forms.

Overview

Action type

When you pick a verb from this menu, that verb will fill in the section header “How to__.” You’ll see this verb in the navigation menu on the left, and in the section header above the Methods section. For example, if you pick “apply,” here’s what people will see:

Title

Be specific and use words people would use when searching for your content.
You don’t necessarily need to start your How-to page title with the words “How to...” Rather, many organizations start with the action term, such as “Report...” or “Apply for...”

Short title

Optional. This field is used to shorten the full title of a page when displayed in a breadcrumb. First aim to shorten the actual page title if it’s long, but not so much that the title is no longer clear if someone comes directly to a page from a search engine.

Short description

Required. Briefly elaborate on the page title.

Time callout

Use this to tell your audience how much time it’ll take to complete the transaction or task you’re writing about. This might be as simple as, “It will take us 2 weeks to process your application,” or it might be more complicated:
These links might be the most important part of your How-to page since they are so prominent. Use them to link to Mass.gov pages by typing in the page title and using the autofill feature. If you’re linking to an offsite application, you’ll need to fill in the URL and “link text” so that Mass.gov knows what to label your Quick actions buttons. Good link text usually starts with a verb that emphasizes what the link lets you do.
Quick actions

Customize header text

Check the Customize header text box if you want to override default section headings. See above for more on customizing header text.

Parent page

The required Parent page field appears on all public-facing content types and it powers the breadcrumb-based navigation system.
The Mass.gov team prepopulated the field based on an analysis of which child pages belong to which parent pages. Each child page can be assigned only 1 parent, or higher level page.
These connections, displayed in the form of breadcrumbs (i.e., links) above the page title, will help Mass.gov visitors find their way to relevant information regardless of where they start on the site.
Parent page field

Organization(s)

You’ll find the Organization(s) field at the bottom of the first tab in every Mass.gov content type, and in documents. This field tells Mass.gov’s search which pages belong to which organization. ‌

Intended audience

This field isn’t being used yet, so there’s no need to fill it in.

Labels

This is optional, however it is very helpful. Add one or more labels to be used to used for grouping and finding related content and documents within the CMS.
Start typing in the Label(s) field to choose an existing label from a dropdown menu that will appear or add a new label by entering it directly.
Be sure to create specific labels: The label field is shared across the whole site; your label should be unique and identifiable to prevent overlap with others.

Details tab

What you need

This tells people what they need to gather to complete a task or transaction. It might also tell them what they need to know or organize before proceeding. It’s a good place to use the bulleted list function on the rich text editor. For example:

Adding a Fee to your How-to

This field is for Fee content types. You can either create the Fee in the How-to page’s authoring interface, or you can add one that you created earlier. If you create a Fee in order to make a How-to, it will be saved in the CMS for you to use later. You’ll be able to find it by searching "My content" by Fee content type.
Fee example
Sometimes, payment is complicated. You can add more explanation in the Fee description field. For example, you might say, “Different locations accept different forms of payment. Check your local location to see what you should bring.”

Methods

You need to add at least one method for accomplishing a task (e.g., online, by phone, etc.) before you can publish your How-to page. Use a dropdown menu to chose a Method type, then fill in Method details via a rich text editor. The default heading for this section is “How to...” and then whichever Action type verb you chose about. So “How to apply” or “How to renew,” for example.
People on this page will then see an expandable box for each Method type.
Method types
Each Method type box should tell users what they need to to complete the task using that method. This might be as simple as linking to an online application, or it might involve a list of items to send to several addresses. Sometimes it’s a good idea to repeat some of the information from the What you need section.

Next steps

Some transactions might involve more action after the initial action. For example, if you expect users to track the process of a proposal, you could tell them how to do that in this section.
Include information in a rich text editor. Add additional information via a Learn more link and any relevant downloads via “Add new media item” or “Add existing media item” buttons.

Additional info

More info

If you need to include supplemental information related to this transaction, add it to the More info field.

Manage your account

This section will let visitors check the status of their application or download additional paperwork needed to complete the next step of their transaction. You can also include a link to an account management page if it’s different from links already on the page.

Contacts

This area uses Contact Information that you create separately. Find the contact you want by beginning to type its title into the Contacts field and selecting the appropriate item from the list that appears. On a How-to page, Contact Information appears both on the right and in the bottom dropdown.

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