How-to Pages

Use to help constituents complete an action and achieve a goal.

Summary

The How-to page helps users do something. It’s an essential part of the service suite, since needing to accomplish something is one of the main reasons users visit Mass.gov. Even if they’re looking for information, they usually need that information in order to achieve some goal. When you author a How-to page, you’re describing the steps users need to take to do what they want to do.

Here are a few examples of what How-tos help users do:

  • Apply

  • Pay

  • Request

  • Register

  • Submit required forms or proposals

  • Access and use offsite applications

Required fields

To save a draft of a How-to, you’ll need to author/select:

  • An action type

  • A title and short description

  • At least 1 method

  • At least 1 contact

You might also need to make:

  • A Fee item (but you can do this while authoring your How-to)

📊How-to pages feature the Analytics Dashboard (Beta).📊

Overview tab

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 the user will see:

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. Use them to link to your offsite application, a list of your locations, or the critical download users need. If one of your key links is a document, make sure that you follow best practices for linking to documents. If you’re linking to an offsite page, you’ll need to fill in the “link text” so that Mass.gov knows what to label your quick action buttons. Good link text usually starts with a verb that emphasizes what the link lets users do.

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.

This field also powers the "Offered by" relationship indicator (the small green rectangle(s) in the upper left corner) on each Mass.gov page. Making sure yours is right will help users who land on your content find their way to your Organization Page.

Intended audience

Choose the audience this content is intended for. This information will help measure how well these audiences are being served and won't be displayed on the public-facing site. This is currently only for internal use. Choose from:

  • Not Set (default)

  • Personal

  • Professional (For their jobs)

  • Both equally

  • Unclear

Details tab

The What you need field

Here, tell users what they need to gather to complete your 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.

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 before you can publish your How-to page. This section looks different from the user’s perspective than from the author’s: It begins with “How to” and the verb you selected at the top of the page. Then, each of the methods you create is displayed in a dropdown:

Each dropdown should tell users what they need to to complete the task using that method. This might be as simple as linking to your 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 What you need, or add another link to a quick action.

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.

Additional info tab

More info

If you need to add supplemental information related to this particular 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 first-time links already on the page.

Contacts tab

This area uses Contact Information that you create separately. Find the contact you want by beginning to type its title 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.

Note: If you don't put a phone number in the Contact Information, it will not show up in the upper right section of the How-to Page.

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