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Hennepin County Design System

Digital text standards

Find guidance for digital text including headings, text formatting, numbers, alert banners, and user interface copy.


  • There are 2 different purposes for addresses that affect the layout. One is meant for mailing and the other as a link for users to map or physically go to.
  • This is not for addresses in the Contact module for Sitecore websites.
  • Always spell out directions and type (street, road, boulevard, etc.) in the street address.

Mailing purposes

  • Name of building (followed by a soft return or SHIFT and enter key)
  • Street address, suite or room # (followed by a soft return or SHIFT and enter key)
  • City, state and zip (followed by a hard return or enter key)

Mapping for physical address

House number, street name, direction, city, state and zip should be on the same line with no return. The word “map” should be included after the building name. Not at the beginning.

  • Name of building (followed by a soft return or SHIFT and enter key)
  • Street address, suite or room #, city, state and zip (followed by a soft return or SHIFT and enter key)
  • Name of building map <hyper link to map URL> (followed by a hard return or enter key)



701 Building
701 South 4th Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55415
701 Building map


701 Building
701 – 4th Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55415

Alert banners

  • Keep the alert banner message relevant to the user’s actions or goals.
  • Be clear and concise.
  • Where possible, include actions that inform users or help them resolve an issue.
  • Depending on the context of the message, include a link to further inform the user.

Describing complex words

If you must use a complex word, consider defining or explaining it. How you do this will depend on your users’ needs.

For example:

  • In a full definition: As part of a criminal case, the judge may order restitution. Restitution is payment to a crime victim for losses they suffered because of the crime. The person who committed the crime makes the payment.
  • In a short definition: As part of a criminal case, the judge may order restitution (payment to a crime victim). Or, As part of a criminal case, the judge may order payment to a crime victim (restitution).

Heading levels

Heading levels outline the hierarchy of the content. For full detail about heading levels, visit Heading levels.

Number formatting

In digital products, use numerals, unless at the beginning of a sentence:

  • 5,000 (not five thousand)
  • 3 or 4 (not three or four)

Online surveys and customer feedback loops

Effective online surveys and feedback loops support good customer service. They allow meaningful input about a person's online experience with the county.


  • Use plain language for text, link labels, and screens including clear instructions.
  • Follow accessibility guidelines.
  • Use Hennepin County branding.
  • Provide a clear success statement (thank you, next steps, etc.).
  • Data storage should follow county data security practices and policies.

Readability tools

Readability tools can catch issues that writers and editors miss. These tools identify content that’s hard to read and flag other readability issues.

Use readability tools with care. They don’t replace careful review by humans.

Tools include Hemingway or Word’s Flesch-Kincaid readability tool.

Search engine optimization

Good search practices make it easy for people to find our online content. Useful metadata and keywords support good search.

We should use keywords in the page title, URL, and headings. But avoid this where it would break the rules of grammar.

Required metadata

For the page title:

  • Stay within a character limit of 50.
  • Leave off the words "Hennepin County" unless it is critical.

For the meta description:

  • Stay within a character limit of 156.
  • Use a concise description of the page content.

Optional keyword metadata

Keywords affect internal site search only. They don't affect external search such as in Google, Bing, or Yahoo.

Guidance for keywords: 

  • Use words or phrases not found on the page itself (like common misspellings, abbreviations, and slang).
  • Use up to six keywords separated by commas.
  • If no helpful keywords exist, you can ignore the keyword field in Sitecore.

You can ignore these Sitecore fields:

  • Audience
  • Service area
  • Content type
  • Department
  • Page owner email

Summarizing complex content

If you must provide content in a complex way, you can create a summary. A summary gives key information without requiring that someone read all the detail. A summary could include key details or themes.

For example:

(Report summary) Since 1990, homelessness in Lincoln County has become more widespread and chronic. This is especially true for families. The county has increased funding for housing programs by 33% and staff by 15 people. Staff provide services in housing, employment, and mental health.

(Full report) Visit the Lincoln County 30-year report on homelessness (PDF).

Text formatting

Consistent formatting helps people read and understand text. Special formatting can increase clarity.

Use special formatting with care, to call out critical words:

  • Use bold to clarify key information, for example: "Walk-ins are no longer available. You must make an appointment."
  • Use italics to call out a name, title, or label, such as: "When you arrive, push the Call button outside the main door."

Don't use these text formats:

  • Underline
  • Highlight
  • Color other than the standard black text color
  • All caps other than acronyms

Transcripts and subtitles for video and audio

For standards and guidance on transcripts and subtitles, visit Writing for accessibility.

User interface copy

User interface copy (UI copy) is the small bit of text that describes an action a user can take.

Examples of UI copy:

  • In buttons to execute an action: Submit, Finish, Pause, etc.
  • For confirmation before a final decision: Do you want to delete (item)?
  • In radio buttons to choose one option in a list: Monday, Wednesday, Friday

Keep UI copy short, clear, and meaningful:

  • Use 2-4 words. But use more words if you need, to clarify the task.
  • Lead with action words like submit, complete, or accept.
  • Avoid vague words like OK. State in a clear way what users will do by choosing the button.
  • Don’t use verbs for common labels. For example, use back, not go back.
  • Don’t use the words a, an, or the.
  • Use common words. Limit the use of terms unique to the county.
  • Use action words in a consistent way throughout the website or application.

Adapted from Nielsen Norman Group’s guidance on UI copy.