Web Content Guidelines
Guidelines for Web Content Authors
NOTE: This page will be edited for the NEW website.
Authors need to log into the web-based CMS at cms.gallaudet.edu.
New users should contact the Helpdesk for an account. Once an account has been established, users can log in using their Gallaudet user name and password. New authors, or those needing refresher training, should contact the Helpdesk for training.
Remote log in
To access your site from home or another location, connect to the Gallaudet system at: remote.gallaudet.edu and follow the set up instructions. For more information about the remote connection, please visit the Gallaudet Technology Services website.
Gallaudet web page addresses must be within the WWW directory/domain, such as www.gallaudet.edu/about. Requests for subdomains, such as about.gallaudet.edu, will not be granted. Existing subdomain URLs are allowed.
With the current CMS, URLs are "structured URLs" which means that the URL name is based on the name of the page and the folders that it is in. For example:
For shorter URLs, especially for print purposes, contact the Helpdesk for assistance. Once the page is published online, changing the title of the page will change the URL and any links to the page will be broken. Care should be taken when creating a name for a new page or site.
Too much information, or not enough?
Before creating a new site or adding new content, put yourself in the shoes of the average visitor that you hope is visiting your site. What do they want to know? What do they want to do? How do they want to do it? Think about your own behavior as a web visitor for other websites.
There is often a lot of information that we think our visitors should read or we're tempted to put everything about our programs online. Too much information, especially if it's not well written, not well organized, and not easily scannable, can be as bad as not having enough information. If the visitor can easily find the information that they expect to find, there is nothing wrong with them needing to contact you for follow up questions.
What you should not put on your website:
- Anything that is copyrighted without express permission
- Anything that violates federal, state or local laws
- Anything that violates university policy
- Anything for commercial or private business purposes
- Anything that is pornographic, obscene, injurious, harassing or defamatory
- Anything that is a rumor, hearsay, or unverified about individuals or the university and its programs
It is very important that web page content be accessible. According to Section 508 Web Standards and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, all images and graphic elements on your page must be accompanied by alternative text (alt-text). Alt-text is a brief description of the image-imagine describing the picture to someone who can't see it. Visually impaired visitors may use talking browsers, screen readers, and text browsers to "view" your page. These devices depend on alt-text.
The university's CMS takes care of many of these requirements but, if you add pictures to your page, you must include alt-text for your pictures. There is a field provided in the CMS for adding this descriptive text. This is NOT necessarily the same thing as a photo caption (See the Images/Video section below). If you need assistance with adding alt-text, please contact e-Learning.
Writing for the Web
Content should be concise and scannable. Writing for the web is very different from writing for print publications. Web visitors prefer to jump to a page, scan it to see if it contains the information they are looking for, and then read quickly to get that information. Web visitors quickly get frustrated "wasting time" reading through a lot of content, especially if it doesn't contain the information they need. First impressions matter, you may not get a second visit.
- Avoid long pages
- Put important information first
- Break text into short paragraphs
- Use heads, subheadings, and short bullet lists
- Use white space, avoid clutter
- Don't use jargon and acronyms
- Don't over use attention grabbing techniques like bold, italics, colors, font sizes, and don't use underlining-this will make the user think the text is a link.
- Make sure the content is current and accurate
- Embed your links but make them part of your sentence. Don't say "Click here for more information" but instead use "Read more about this program".
Also remember that visitors don't follow a set path to arrive at any given page. They may bypass your main page and go directly to another page in your site. Keep this in mind in your writing; don't assume that the reader has read the page before that explained a certain topic or spelled out a particular acronym.
- Photos should be JPG files, graphics should be GIF files
- Images should be optimized for web use-don't use large file sizes as can slow down page loading
- Images should be sized and placed on pages in a neat and aesthetically appealing way. For non-designers the CMS template has a simple method for adding images. For authors with design knowledge and skill, there is flexibility in photo placement but care should be taken not to "junk" up pages. Consult with the Office of Communications and Public Relations for questions.
- Get permission to use someone's image on the web. A verbal agreement may be sufficient in most cases. The Office of Communications and Public Relations has photo release forms available as well. Also note, even if permission was granted, if someone featured in a photo requests their photo be removed, do so as soon as possible.
- Take special care in using images of young people and children. Always get written permission from parents or legal guardians
- Enter alt-tags. Site readers depend on alt-tags to describe images for blind and deaf blind visitors. This is different from a photo caption.
Caption: Women's volleyball team hosts 2012 NEAC tournament this weekend.
Alt-tag: team members slap hands and clap as they congratulate each other on the court.
Update your site regularly
Keeping your website current and relevant is extremely important! Obviously you don't want visitors coming to your site and either not finding the information that they need or, even worse, finding old or wrong information on your site. First impressions matter and you may not get a second chance!
How often should you update? As often as possible! Nowadays the primary way prospective students and others are finding out about you is through the web. Paper brochures and flyers are still important tools in marketing, but a prospective student who receives a brochure will likely go to their smart phone and look you up rather than study the brochure. Review your site regularly, read through it as if you are an outside visitor who doesn't know much about you. Delete outdated information!
Analytics and reports
Contact the helpdesk and sign up for weekly analytics updates for your site: how many visitors did you get, how long did they stay on your site, what keywords did they use if they came to your site from a search engine (good way to develop keywords)? You can also get a report on broken links, spelling and grammar errors, and missing alt-tags (alt-tags are hidden descriptions of things like pictures and graphics and are essential for deaf blind visitors using reader programs).
If you want people to come back to your site more than once, you also need to have fresh content such as news about your program, profiles on students or faculty in your program, or changing photos. Take time to review other department websites to see what they're doing and review websites for similar programs at other universities. If you see something that someone else is doing, that would work for your site, borrow the idea. Be judicious, don't clutter your site with gimmicks, but if it is something that would enhance your site, try it. Contact the Office of Communications and Public Relations and Gallaudet Technology Services if you need guidance or assistance.
Search Engine Optimization
Want your site to be discovered when people are searching for related information? Here are a few things you should keep in mind that can help your chances.
Be sure to have an introduction on each page, a sentence or short paragraph that sums up the content on the page. Clarify jargon and abbreviations and use keywords.
Take the time to carefully determine the specific words and phrases that sum up your site. Think about what words someone who doesn't know much about your subject would use if they were doing a Google search for you. There is a field in the CMS to enter keywords. You should also use your key words in the content on your page, particularly as headings.*Caution: don't go overboard with your key words though; be sure that your content is readable and engaging!
Page titles should accurately reflect the content on each page. Another good place to use keywords. Don't use a generic title for each of your pages, the design template in the CMS already ensures that your department/organization name will be repeated throughout your site. Boring is good! Don't try to be too creative with your page titles, make them short and to the point!
Metadata is the information about your content that search engines read. In the CMS the fields for Abstract and Keywords are examples of places where you can enter meta data about your page. The importance of meta data has diminished in recent years as search engines have gotten more sophisticated but they are still important. You should put a short paragraph in the Abstract field that uses some of your keywords and provides a unique description of the page. If you have a description there, search engines will display that in their search results listings right below the page title.