Content and Information Architecture Specification: Organizing content on

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How people find tasks helps people navigate in 3 different ways:

  • Theme navigation: people who do not know which institution offers what they are looking for can find it through theme and topic pages
  • Institutional navigation: people can find what they are looking for directly through the institutional presence of each department
  • Search: supports findability for both theme and institutional navigation through the on and off-site search engine

Most people looking for government services and information don't understand how government is organized. To address this, the theme-based navigation is the priority navigation path on

See where your content fits under themes and their corresponding topics in the Topic tree.

Navigation conceptual overview
Diagram of user navigation conceptual overview. Text version below:
Text version

People who may not understand the operations or organization of the Government of Canada (GC) may access content through theme navigation. Theme pages organize topics in a way that people understand so they can find content that supports their tasks quickly. Theme pages link to topic pages and/or destination content. Topic pages allow people to discover top-task content related to a specific GC-wide topic. They also link to destination content. People can also access content through institutional navigation. This navigation is intended for people who are accustomed to dealing with specific institutions. An Institutional/Organizational profile presents all timely and relevant content offered by an institution. It then leads people to either theme or topic pages, or directly into destination content. Destination content is about services or information, program and policy development, news, campaigns and promotions, or corporate information.

User-need categories for destination content

Organize your content to fit under one of these 5 user-need categories:

  1. Services and information
  2. Program and policy development
  3. Corporate information
  4. Campaigns and promotions
  5. News

Services and information

Services and information form the core content that allows a person to complete a task.

Tasks can range from very simple to very complex. They can be informational or transactional. Tasks can be things like:

  • find a contact
  • get the weather forecast
  • find out what you need to report on your tax return
  • apply for a visa
  • get EI benefits
  • get ideas on places to visit in Canada

This category consists of content that:

  • allows people to initiate a transaction with the government
  • answers questions people have about government services
  • focuses on what people can do or are looking for, not on what the government offers
  • helps people complete a task, and may include reports, guides, digital services or databases
  • Navigation

    This content must be accessible from both:

    • the topic tree
    • the "Services and information" section of the Institutional/Organizational profile

    All your user navigation decisions should make it easier for people to find your top tasks.

  • Breadcrumb trail

    Leads back to the topic tree, not the institutional presence.

Program and policy development

Program and policy development content shows what the government is doing to support programs, policies and services.

It consists of content that:

  • provides information about programs and policies, and activities related to their development
  • provides background information about what is presented on a topic page
  • includes program descriptions, policies, research papers, consultations, statistics, legislation, etc.
  • Navigation

    This content must be accessible from either:

    • the “What we are doing” section of the topic page and the Institutional/Organizational profile
    • the "Corporate information" section of the Institutional/Organizational profile
  • Breadcrumb trail

    Leads back to the Institutional/Organizational profile.

Corporate information

Corporate information is information about the institution itself and its business lines.

It consists of content such as:

  • institutional mandate and organizational structure
  • performance reporting and transparency
  • job opportunities
  • Navigation

    This content must be accessible from the “Corporate information” section of the Institutional/Organizational profile.

  • Breadcrumb trail

    Leads back to the Institutional/Organizational profile.

Campaigns and promotions

Consists of content that:

  • supports advertising campaigns, events, announcements, etc.
  • leads people to core content found in either "Services and information" or "Program and policy development"
  • Navigation

    This content can be accessible from:

    • the “Latest news” section of the Institutional/Organizational profile
    • the Features on Institutional/Organizational profiles and topic pages
    • contextual promotions on relevant content pages
  • Breadcrumb trail

    Promotion campaigns don't need a breadcrumb trail. If you add one, it can lead back to the topic tree, the Institutional/Organizational profile, or to the Home page of


Consists of content that:

  • supports media and public awareness of government activities
  • includes backgrounders, media advisories, news releases, speeches, statements, campaigns, etc.
  • includes other media or news products not supported by GC News
  • Navigation

    This content must be accessible from the “Latest news” section of the Institutional/Organizational profile and in the newsroom.

  • Breadcrumb trail

    Leads back to the Institutional/Organizational profile.

URL model

Each web page has a primary URL, displayed in the browser’s address bar. All other URLs referring to the web page resolve to the primary URL. This applies to URL aliases, vanity URLs, redirected URLs or any other non-primary URL.

How to write URLs

This applies to all URLs, including vanity URLs and subdomains:

  • use plain language keywords
  • avoid superfluous words such as “to”, “the”, “a”, “an”, “by”, “for” (for example, “/apply-student-loan” instead of “/how-to-apply-for-a-canadian-student-loan”
  • separate keywords and path segments by hyphens
  • use lowercase
  • it is strongly recommended that you use unilingual keywords, in the language of the page
  • use only US-ASCII (7-bit version of ASCII) characters (for example, “meteo” instead of “météo”)
  • avoid duplicate keywords and apostrophes
  • avoid acronyms and abbreviations, unless they are better understood than the full version or perform better on search engines

Writing URLs for communications products

When writing URLs for communication products, you can use either the primary URL or a vanity URL.

Vanity URLs must:

  • be easy to type and to communicate
  • only include 1 path segment (only a single slash)
  • hide the file extension for HTML-based pages (for example, “”, “”)

If the URL will be spoken out loud (for example, in radio and television advertisements), you can also have another vanity URL without hyphens. This will make it easier to read out loud.

Example – Television advertisement:

  • vanity URL for print:
  • vanity URL for television or radio: (spoken “canada dot c a slash employment insurance maternity”)

Note: your account manager can submit new vanity URLs and change requests to the Principal Publisher using the Request form for


Only use subdomains for content or services hosted outside the Managed Web Service.

When choosing a subdomain:

  • use plain language keywords that make sense to the user
  • a maximum of 2 keywords is recommended
  • it is strongly recommended that you use unilingual keywords, in the language of the page
  • related sub-sites and digital services must be grouped under the same sub-domain, where possible


    • Application for Employment Insurance benefits online arrow pointing right
    • Employment Insurance Internet reporting service arrow pointing right

Note: your account manager can submit new sub-domains and change requests to the Principal Publisher using the Request form for Sub-domain requests are reviewed by the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat.

Content types and content states

Content types

A content type is a unique element describing the nature of the page content.

Use the content type list, a common taxonomy, to classify and filter large lists of content based on content type.

Content states

There are 3 content states for content published on

  1. current content
  2. archived content
  3. legacy content

Current content

Current content is information and services that are actively sought out by people. It can also be content that must be available to the public at all times.

Archived content

Archived content is information that is no longer current. It is still accessible through for reference or to provide context for current versions of content.

On archived content, provide links to the current version of the content. If a task would require people to find archived content, provide links to the archived content on the current content.

Archived content is indexed and is findable through the search function. This supports findability when there is no current content.

Legacy content

Legacy content is information that has been revised or replaced by more recent content. Remove this content from the website and move it into your corporate repository for recordkeeping purposes.

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