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Stephen F. Austin State University

Best Practices

Website structure and organization

Build for the audience

Thorough attention should be given to planning the structure and organization of a website. Information should be grouped in categories based on what a user would logically want, even if that means grouping functions from different departments/offices together. It is tempting to organize websites based on internal university structure rather than the needs of users. This can result in the "silo effect" and makes the finding of information more difficult for the user.

Important things up front

When deciding how to organize and prioritize your content, you can't go wrong with putting your most important information the most prominent place. This may be an announcement about an upcoming event that your department is hosting, an academic advising schedule, or how to apply to SFA. Your mission statement is not likely to be your most important piece of information.

Navigation and links

Use clear and relevant terms that users understand when creating navigation elements. Users scan for links when viewing webpages to find information they are seeking. Use words that most accurately describe the destination of the link when creating body copy links. Avoid using "click here" for identifying links. For example, it is preferable to use:

View the spring 2014 class schedule

rather than:

To view the spring 2014 class schedule, click here

Textual information

Writing for the web

Web users don't read - they scan for keywords that identify the information they are seeking. Due to this scanning behavior, users do not consciously analyze what they are seeing. Facilitate this scanning with headers, bullet points and lists to make it easier for users to find the information they need. Omit non-essential words and use language that is as clear and simple as possible.

Always keep the mission of the website in the front of your mind when writing content. If is not relevant to the target audience, it should be omitted.

Headings

Pages should be broken into sections using heading tags (<h1>…<h6>). This will increase the effectiveness of the SFA web site search mechanism and aids in the interpretation of the page for users with screen readers.

Link, don't duplicate

One of the fundamental principles upon which the World Wide Web is based is the idea that information can, and should be, created once and referenced as needed. Rather than duplicating information found online, simply provide a link to that information whenever possible. This way, as content is updated, the labor involved in making that change is minimized and corrections are kept to a minimum.

Acronyms

If acronyms are to be used in a webpage, always explain what the acronym stands for when first using it on a page.

Graphics

Relevant, "value-added" images

Images should only be used if they add interest to the page on which they are placed. Additionally, they should be relevant to SFASU and the text and purpose of the page. Photographs should generally be saved as .jpg files while other types of images should be saved as .gif files. All images files should be optimized for display on the web.

Composition and size

Make sure that the primary subject in an image is clearly visible and discernible. Using the "Rule of Thirds" is a good way to improve the quality and interest in your photographs.

Remember to optimize image files for display on the web. Resize and crop images to comfortably fit into the visual space alloted and save them for the best quality/file size ratio possible. If you don't have any image editing software such as Adobe Photoshop available to you, an online image editing tool such as PIXLR can be a very useful alternative.

Accessibility

All images must have an "alt" attribute. For details about this, consult the Accessibility Checklist.

Video and Flash

Page titles

Although often overlooked, page titles are vitally important to the usability and navigation of a website. Page titles normally appear at the top of a browser window as well as on browser tabs.

example page title

Figure 1 - the text "Stephen F. Austin State University" has been set as the page title

The page title is also what appears in the user's Bookmarks or Favorites when they bookmark a page. Search engines often utilize page titles when ranking search results as well.

The preferred format for a page title is: Page Name | Department Name | University Acronym. For example, Courses | Physics & Astronomy | SFASU is a good page title.

Remember to use short but descriptive terms when coming up with page titles; avoid using terms like "home" or "welcome."

Page coding

All pages should be coded to adhere to standards established by the W3C. Content should be created using an HTML or XHTML doctype and validated using the W3C's online validation tool. Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) should be used to control the layout and formatting of pages rather than tables.

SFA Identity Standards Banner

SFA Identity Standards Web Page Banner

This .zip archive contains all necessary graphic, CSS and HTML files necessary to use the SFA Identity Standards Web Page Banner on your website.

File size: 31.56 KB

Updated: Tuesday, June 07, 2011