Best Practices for Web Sites

Writing for the Web
Using Photos & Images
Using Video
Embedding RSS and Calendars
ADA Accessibility Issues

View the PowerPoint slide deck for the CMS User Group meeting from May 22, 2012 entitled "Writing for the Web."

I. Writing for the Web

Developing web site content

  • Gathering content is the most difficult part of creating a web site
  • Editing the content is the second most difficult part of creating a web site

Content for your web site should follow the principles of basic information gathering. Answer the following questions:

  • Who – identify who the site is for
  • What – identify what your site is about
  • Where – identify physical or virtual location of your service, product or people
  • When – identify the time frame that your service, product or people is available
  • Why – identify the benefits of using your service, product or people
  • How – identify the process that is involved to use your service, product or people

Remember to keep web content simple and brief.
After you've gathered content, meet with Web Design and Management. Our team will help you set up an outline and navigation, and identify areas that might need additional detail, photos, diagrams, forms, or other widgets to make your site more user-friendly.

Writing for the web is different from writing for printed materials, primarily because web site visitors often:

  • task-oriented, and scan a site to complete their task as quickly as possible
  • progress through a site in any order they choose
  • enter the site on an interior page from a search result

Guidelines for effective online content

  • Be concise
  • Avoid language that is too scientific or technical; instead, write for a general audience (the rule of thumb is that an 8th grader should be able to understand it)
  • Put the most important content first
  • Use lots of sub-headlines and bulleted lists
  • Make sure key words are in the 1st or 2nd word of headlines and sub-headlines
  • Phrase links so the link destination is obvious

For more tips and rationale, see Jakob Nielsen's How Users Read on the Web.

Best Practices for Writing

  • Avoid lengthy welcome letters on your homepage. They rarely contain the real information that Web users want, they take up valuable space, they can be clichéd (think Webster dictionary definitions in papers) and become dated if they refer to recent activities. If you must include a welcome letter, link to one from your homepage.
  • For content that is time-sensitive, such as the promotion of an upcoming event or academic schedule, add a timestamp noting when it was last updated and have a schedule in place to take down that information once the event has passed.
  • Remember that you are not just writing for people, but also for search engines. Use headlines that give a strong sense of the actual content and keywords related to your site and the topic of the page. Avoid putting important text inside images. Be sure the title of your page reflects its contents.

II. Using Photos and Images on Your Web Site

Best practices

  • Post photos with relevant information but avoid "jazzing up" your pages with purely decorative pictures.
  • Use professional quality photos. Remember that your site is a reflection of your department. If you wouldn't put a photo on the cover of a magazine, don't put it on your website.
  • Use image editing software to crop and reduce the overall image resolution of your photos to 96 dpi. Higher resolution photos are larger in file size and increase download time with no benefit to the viewer.
  • Include text in the alt tag for all photos (description of the photo for those using a text reader).

For more tips and rationale, see Jakob Neilson's Photos as Web Content.

Obtaining releases for your photography

Web sites are public and you need permission to use someone's photo. Visit the Photo Services web site for current photo release form to use when taking photos and retain signed copies.

Use of official logos

All departments must comply with the University of Kansas visual identity standards. This includes the appropriate use of images and logos associated with the university. Departments can not create their own logos or modify the Jayhawk image for their own use. Obtain copies of the appropriate KUMC signature files for use on your website on the Graphic Services web site.

For more information on the use of official logos, see KU's Visual Identity site.

Creating photo galleries on Flickr and embedding them in your site

To create photo galleries of events, we recommend using Flickr (or a site similar to Flickr) to store and display your photos. Adding metadata to each photo lets you categorize and display it in a variety of ways. You can embed sets of your photos based on the metadata on your site. For example, you could create separate photo galleries for photos labeled "SOM Graduation" or "Gala."

For more information on embedding your Flickr photosets on your site, see its FAQ:

III. Using Video

KUMC has a YouTube channel for hosting your videos. Once they're uploaded to YouTube, you can embed your videos onto your site with the standard video controls users are accustomed to seeing. Your videos will also be categorized with other official KUMC videos for easy browsing and searching via YouTube.

The KUMC YouTube page is managed by the Office of Communications. Contact Julie Adam, to have your video reviewed and approved. Include:

  • The video file
  • A title for the video
  • A description of the video, no longer than 100 words (preferably 50)
  • Tags that would help users find the video if they entered those search terms

The KUMC YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/kumedcenter

Best Practices

  • Keep videos under 10 minutes - preferably much shorter. Think about how long you are willing to spend watching an online  video, and make your own video even shorter. An ideal length is less than three minutes.
  • Do not upload any TV shows, music videos, music concerts, or commercials without permission unless they consist entirely of content you created yourself. The Copyright Tips page and the Community Guidelines can help you determine whether your video infringes someone else's copyright. By clicking "Upload Video," you confirm that the video does not violate YouTube's Terms of Use and that you own all copyrights in this video or have authorization to upload it.

IV. Embedding Calendar Events

The Web Design and Management team can assist you with code to embed event information into your web pages in a variety of ways.

 

VI. ADA Guidelines

All web-based information and services provided by KUMC must be accessible pursuant to federal and state laws, including the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998, section 508 and the Americans with Disability Acts. For more information on KUMC policy, see:

Web Resource Accessibility Operational Protocol

The design templates provided to departments meets state and federal accessibility requirements. For more information on complying with accessibility guidelines, please contact the university's section 508 coordinator, Jameson Watkins, at 913-588-7387.

Last modified: Aug 05, 2014
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