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Guidance for developers building accessible websites based on BBC GEL.

What's here?

We are writing technical recommendations for developers who build the patterns in the BBC GEL Guidelines. Each of these technical guides detail the recommended HTML, JS and CSS to use in your front-end code. The examples in each guide are for reference only and are not intended to be used as a library.


Foundation Title Status
Focus Draft
Grids Draft
Headings Draft
Iconography Draft
Routing Draft
Typography Draft


Component Title Status
Accordions Draft
Action dialogs Draft
Breakout boxes Draft
Buttons and CTAs Draft
Cards Draft
Carousels Draft
Comments Draft
Data tables Draft
External links Draft
Filter and sort Draft
Form fields and validation Draft
Infographics Draft
Information Panel Draft
Metadata strips Draft
Masthead Draft
Promos Draft
Pagination Draft
Pocket Draft
Share Tools Draft
Site Menu Draft
Search Draft
Tabs Draft
Video controls Draft

About this site

The BBC Global Experience Language (GEL) Technical Guides are a series of framework-agnostic, code-centric recommendations and examples for building GEL design patterns in websites. They illustrate how to create websites that comply with all BBC guidelines and industry best practice, giving special emphasis to accessibility.

Our guides are for BBC developers following the BBC GEL design patterns, including all BBC employees, contractors and suppliers, however they are publicly available for anyone who may be interested in how the BBC recommends building websites.

You can use these guides under an Open Government Licence for Public Sector Information. Details can be found on the National Archives website.

Coding conventions

Our guides make recommendations about the markup (HTML), layout (CSS), and behaviour (JS) of your GEL implementations. It is otherwise technology agnostic.

However, the reference implementations inside our guides adhere to certain principles and conventions. If you are intending to contribute working code to this project, please be mindful of these.


All reference implementations are written in ES5. The intention is for the code to be as widely understood, and as easily adopted for creating test cases as possible. In a few cases, small polyfills are included. These are added to the implementation's demo page inside the init function.

Progressive enhancement

Our guides eschew larger polyfills and compatibility libraries, opting to use feature detection. In JavaScript this might mean wrapping functionality in an if block.

if ('IntersectionObserver' in window) {
  // Do something with the IntersectionObserver API

In CSS, a basic layout is put in place then enhanced with modern layout modules like CSS Grid inside @supports blocks:

.grid > * + * {
  margin-top: 1rem;

@supports (display: grid) {
  .grid {
    display: grid;
    grid-template-columns: repeat(auto-fill, minmax(266px, 1fr));
    grid-gap: 1rem;

  .grid > * + * {
    margin: 0; /* undo, since `grid-gap` supercedes it */


Components are identified in their markup using classes and the gel-component structure. For example, the Site menu pattern uses class="gel-sitemenu" on the parent element, and gel-sitemenu-more to identify each (hidden by default) submenu.

Component scripts are attached to the gel namespace, like gel.ComponentName.

Constructor pattern

Each reference implementation that depends on JavaScript uses a basic constructor pattern to instantiate the working component. For example, the simple toggle switch constructor looks like this:

  self.constructor = function (button) {
    this.button = button;
    // The 'on/off' text is provided in an aria-hidden <span>
    this.onOffSpan = this.button.querySelector('[aria-hidden]');

    // Set aria-pressed to false if the attribute is absent
    let currentState = this.button.getAttribute('aria-pressed') === 'true';
    this.button.setAttribute('aria-pressed', currentState);
    // Set the span's text to match the state
    this.onOffSpan.textContent = currentState ? 'on' : 'off';

    // Bind to the toggle method
    this.button.addEventListener('click', this.toggle.bind(this));

  // The toggle method
  self.constructor.prototype.toggle = function () {
    let currentState = this.button.getAttribute('aria-pressed') === 'true';
    this.button.setAttribute('aria-pressed', !currentState);
    this.onOffSpan.textContent = currentState ? 'off' : 'on';

Note that the toggle function is exposed as a public method, in case the switch needs to be toggled programmatically.

Initialization inside the component's demo page looks like this:

var switchElem = document.querySelector('.gel-button-switch');
var switchButton = new gel.Switch.constructor(switchElem);


This project is currently being overseen by the BBC Accessibility Team, managed by Gareth Ford Williams. If you have access to our corporate Slack channel pop in and say hi. We welcome questions and suggestions posted to this project's GitHub issue tracker.

Copyright © 2019 BBC. This content is published under the Open Government Licence, unless otherwise noted.

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