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The new Specification: about the format

The ILR specification is now published as an HTML publication. The new format replaces PDF releases for subsequent versions starting from January 2020.


Why the format has changed
Working offline
Installing the specification
Managing changes , versioning and updates

Why the format has changed

The ILR Specification is now produced as an HTML publication and delivered to comply with legislative requirements .

There will not be a PDF version published of the 2020 to 2021 specification or later.

Public sector organisations have a legal duty to make sure their websites and apps meet accessibility requirements.

Public sector websites published on or after 23 September 2018 must be compliant by 23 September 2019. Any new websites published after this date must be compliant before going live.

Archive versions and related materials will remain available in their current document format.

Accessibility and a better user experience

The HTML publication is accessible to all, straightforward and economical to maintain.

PDFs can often be bad for accessibility and rarely comply with open standards.

HTML is a much better format to use than PDFs and is the  recommended format for web content .

Compared with the PDF format, the HTML publication is compiled by search engines that focus on full-text indexing, meaning the specification is ranked highly on search engine results pages (SERPs).

Production standards

Government Digital Service (GDS) introduced a new design-system-frontend and codebase to address the new accessibility regulations. This mandated that new publication must meet the AA standard set out by the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.2.

The new platform is a responsive solution to support users of the ILR specification. The previously limited six-month release cycle of multiple PDF’s and documents is now maintained and used as a single source document including version changes.

Working offline

The Specification can be:

  • downloaded as an app

  • used offline without an internet connection

  • stored as a local copy

The delivery platform uses Progressive Web application (PWA) technology.
PWA allows for entire website publications (built in this way) to be downloaded as an app enabling a like-for-like experience, online through the browser and offline using the app.

The app can be installed from any page within the specification and is:

  • accessible

  • searchable

  • reliable

  • the same as the online version (cached)

  • updated automatically when an internet connection is detected

External websites are not contained within the app

Installing a copy of the specification

Guidance for installing the ILR specification as an app using either Chrome or Internet explorer browsers.

Using Internet Explorer and installing the specification

There are 3 steps to complete.

Step 1: Open the tools menu (Cog icon)

What to do

Show the tools menu by either:

  • clicking on the cog usually found to the right of the address bar

  • using alt key and then x key (keeping the alt key selected)

IntoToTheILRSpec - Install in IE Using Menu - Area

Step 2: Selecting 'Add Site to Apps'

Selecting 'Add Site to Apps' from the tools menu will activate a pop-up window.

IntoToTheILRSpec - Internet Explorer Save PWA

Step 3: Select the Add button

The Add button starts the download and installation of the ILR specification app.

What to do next:

  1. Open the stored specification via the Windows Start menu.

    1. The App will usually display within the recently added menu items or listed under E within the Windows Start menu

  2. For quick access to the shortcut, you can pin the shortcut icon to the taskbar

IntoToTheILRSpec - Windows10 In Menu

Using Chrome and installing the specification

There are 2 steps to complete.

Step 1: Open the settings menu.

What to do

Select the vertical ellipsis (three dots icon) to open the settings menu

Show the settings menu by either :

  • clicking on the ellipsis icon

  • using alt key and then E key (keeping the alt key selected)

IntoToTheILRSpec - Install in Chrome Using Menu - Area

Step 2: Select Install ESFA Documentation

Selecting the menu item will begin the download and installation of the ILR specification app and an icon onto the desktop (Chome only).

Open the app using the ESFA Documentation icon. (Chrome only) .

Updates and using the app

When the app is started:

  • checks are made for an internet connection

  • changes to the specification will be installed when an internet connection is detected

If no connection is available the app uses the already cached version of the specification.

Managing changes , versioning and updates

Changes to the specification and how they are managed.

There are three types of change:

  • Major version

  • Minor version

  • Correction or point of change

Major changes

Defined as structural or fundamental change that has been made to the ILR Data Structure.

A major change will be identified by a version number stamp on the landing page.


  • Incremental version tags at the point of change indicate which version a change is related to. For example on a field page where there has been a change

  • Each version will have a collection of changes identified by numeric version tags

  • All major version changes are referenced on the summary of changes page

Minor changes

Defined as a significant change to guidance or instruction that users should be aware of.

Minor version changes will:

  • not be indicated as a new version of the specification

  • be listed on the summary of changes page

Correction or Point Change

Defined as editorial changes within the publication that do not alter the factual accuracy or structure of the content.

These changes are:

  • not referenced on the summary of changes page

  • deployed as they are identified as part of feedback

Printing the ILR Specification

Any page within the specification may be printed from the browser or app. Printing a web page works like printing any document in any application.

We're not in favour of printing and are discouraging the ‘print-and-annotate' method.

Printed documents are only current at the time of printing

Printing the specification compromises the accuracy of the information and quality of data if relying solely on a printed version.

The definitive source of the ILR specification

The online publication is designed to be:

  • current

  • updated regularly

  • used online and offline

  • the most current version