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What do members of the public see when a consultation is unpublished?

Jess Henderson -

Consultations are in the 'unpublished' state if they have not yet been published or if they have been retracted after publication. Unpublished consultations are not listed on the consultation hub or included in any public search results.  However, there are some cases where a member of the public may have access to an unpublished consultation, for example:

  • Its URL (web address) is included in publicity materials released prior to publication of the consultation
  • The consultation has been retracted after publication, and the visitor had the page bookmarked or in their browser history
  • The visitor guesses the URL

If a member of the public tries to view an unpublished consultation, they will be shown a 'Consultation Unavailable' message. The default message says: "This consultation is currently unavailable. Please try again later or contact us."

The message can be reviewed and edited before retracting a published consultation, or at any time while the consultation is unpublished.  It can contain formatted text, links and images.

Editing the 'Consultation Unavailable' message for an unpublished consultation

Screenshot showing the 'Edit unavailable message' link for an unpublished consultation

While the consultation is in the unpublished state, there is a link on the Consultation Dashboard entitled 'Edit Unavailable Message'.  Click this link to review and edit the message.

You could use the message to display a 'Coming soon' holding page for a consultation that has not yet been published, or to explain that a consultation has been temporarily taken offline and provide an estimate of when it will be available again. 

Editing the 'Consultation Unavailable' message when retracting a consultation

Screenshot showing the retract button for a published consultation

If you need to edit a published consultation or remove it from public view, click the 'Retract...' button on the consultation dashboard.  Before the consultation is retracted, you will be invited to review and edit the 'Consultation Unavailable' message.

You could use the message to encourage anyone in the middle of filling in a survey to come back later to finish their response, for example.