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Best Practices for Web Content Providers

Contact: Cindy Lawrence, College Relations

Plan your site

  • See WebAssist's Roadmap to Planning Your Site (pdf).
  • Make a site map or index with a list of all your content.
  • Organize your content, creating an index of page titles.
  • Map out your site by organizing your pages into a heirarchy of subdirectories (files within folders).
  • Setup your file structure: create a root folder to contain your files (ex: 'MyWeb').
  • Create folders for your files inside your root folder, including an 'images' folder containing all your image files.

Develop your content

"A Web site is only as good as its content," is a common refrain when evaluating the success or failure of a site. The Web can be the primary way to reach your audiences with your information and messages. As a Web content provider, ask what you can do to provide needed information in a way that people can find.
  • Know your audience – Carefully define your audience in order to understand what they want and need. Who is interested in what you have to offer? Consider specific information that would provide insight into your audience: age, where they live, education, employment, Internet skills and usage, etc. Develop content specifically targeted to your audience that's written in a style that speaks to them.
  • Serve your audience better – Start thinking about how you can create a site that serves your audience better. If your content does not serve a purpose or business function, then it should not be on the Web. Ask: Who will access my content, how often, and what for? Is my content written in a formal style that people won't read? Is my content internally focused with organizational information that people don't care about, or is it focused on and meets the needs of my audience? Avoid spending hours developing content that is rarely visited.
  • Be customer/student focused – Think about what questions your readers are asking. Write to them from their perspective while answering their questions. Most site visitors become impatient when reading content not directly focused on them. Your site should assist your visitors in getting the information they want and/or direct them to other places where they can get the information they need.

Write for the Web

Here are some guidelines on how to develop successful Web content that will result in a positive user experience. See Web Help & Online Resources for more information.
  • Keep it simple – Web content is different from other mediums. To write successful Web content, use language that is clear, casual, and concise. Write in short, simple sentences. Use as few words as possible to get your point across. Omit or delete any information that is not essential.
  • Use short paragraphs with subheads – Subheads make content easy to scan. Group your content into short sections that allow visitors to easily find information.
  • Most to least important – Place the most important content at the top. Adding content in order of importance follows the standard practice of drawing the reader's attention 'above the fold.'
  • Links and navigation – Use words that your target audience can relate to. Word your hyperlink text so that it describes the content the user will find when they click (do not use 'Click Here'). For the hyperlink text, use the page title or page heading of the page the link goes to. Search engines rely on keywords in text. If you don't use the words your visitors search for, they might not find your content.
  • Omit irrelevant or redundant content – You'll lose your visitors if you don't.

Position your content

  • Many visitors will only view the top two-thirds of a Web page.
  • Information positioned at the center of a Web page usually gets the most attention.
  • The most important information should be accessible without scrolling through a lengthy page.
  • See WebAssist's Roadmap to Search Engine Optimization (pdf).

Use subheadings

Break up long pages of text with subheadings and lists. Try to use a subheading at least every 3-4 paragraphs of text.
  • Subheadings improve usability – readers scan the Web and look for subheadings to find content. Subheadings should describe the content contained below.
  • Subheadings improve accessibility – screen reader users may browse through a page by calling up a list of headings. Those with impaired vision are also likely to scan for headings.
  • Subheadings improve search engine ranking – next to the page title, search engines place importance on text within headings and subheadings more than any other page elements. Use subheadings that describe content and contain keywords. See WebAssist's Roadmap to Search Engine Optimization (pdf).

Know your file size

Try to keep page file sizes smaller than 50K so that download time remains at a minimum. Since the college templates contain CSS-based layouts, files based on the templates should remain relatively small.

Know your file types

JPG, GIF, PNG
Image files should be set at 72 dpi resolution (screen not print resolution) and optimized for the Web (less than 50K file size). The different formats for Web graphics are:
  • JPG or JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group): for photographs and graphics with gradients; allows more colors.
  • GIF (Graphics Interchange Format): for simple lineart, logos, and buttons; limited number of colors, smaller image size than jpg, supports background transparency and animation.
  • PNG (Portable Network Graphic): bitmapped image format that replaces GIF and preserves sharp edges; not fully supported.

Include meta data: add TITLE and META tags

For pages to be indexed correctly by search engines, and for users to find your page, you must include these tags in the code of your Web pages. Enter title, description, and keywords in the Page Properties (under File > Properties of your HTML editor).

Manage your content: Don't forget your pages!

Publishing your pages is just the beginning—web authoring is a job that has no end... Pages should be updated, removed, added, edited, etc. Links must be periodically checked to make sure that all URLs are current and active, especially external links. Remove all unnecessary files. If files are no longer an active part of the site, backup and delete them. Search engines have access to ALL files on the server even if you have removed all links to them, so outdated pages could be listed in search engine results.
Hanke House

Contact Web Manager:

Cindy Lawrence, College Relations, ext. 630

Contact IT Server Manager:

Patrick Allison, Information Technology, ext. 705

Rick Beaber, Information Technology, ext. 429