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Information Technology Services Help Desk
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Last Updated: 18-Jun-2009
Information Technology Services
Information Technology Services: Web Publishing Tips

Things to Keep in Mind:

  • Not everyone has a fast connection. Keeping page and graphic sizes down will speed load times.
  • Not everyone has a 19" or larger , high resolution monitor with millions of colors.
  • Not everyone is running the same browser you are. Test your pages with other browsers.
  • Cooperation and coordination between departments is encouraged. Rather than duplicating the work of others, take advantage of it. Incorporate links to the work of others when appropriate. This allows you to concentrate on original works.
  • Publishing on the web is just that: publishing. You should follow normal procedures of proper review and approval.
  • Web publishing is not a one time task. Please keep your pages up to date.
  • If your documents link to other web documents outside your department or outside the University, please check these links periodically to make sure they are current.

Recommendations for Web Page Structure and Coding

  • It is strongly suggested that all pages contain a navigation component for all pages a department maintains. If graphic navigation tools, such as image maps, are used, there should be an alternate method of selecting options.
  • Pages should be as universally accessible as possible. Pages employing graphics should be designed to be readable with text browsers: provide alternate text descriptions of graphics and photos and captions for all audio and video components.
  • Definitely include graphics but don't use gratuitous graphics. Graphics provide interest, but things such as overusing decorations and blinking text can be annoying and get in the users way.
  • Use graphics carefully. Try to keep the total graphic size under 50Kb (below 30K is even better). Use "thumbnail" images and allow users to load the larger version if they wish. Including the size of the image in the alternate text would be helpful.
  • Always use height and width tags for all images. This improves the loading speed of a page because the text can flow in to final position before the images arrive. (SharePoint Designer and Dreamweaver will do this automatically for you)
  • If you use background colors or textures, be careful in your selection of those colors and textures, and their effects on readability and printability of the text.
  • Don't use flashing, flickering or blinking images
  • Do not rely on color of text to convey information. Print your pages on a black and white printer. Check that you can still read all of your text and everything makes sense without color. The most prevalent color blindness is red/green. A person with red/green color blindness will see these two colors as shades of gray.
  • Please use relative URLs. Relative URLs point to a file or directory in relation to the present file or directory (folder), whereas an absolute URL contains a complete path including the domain
    Relative URL example: faculty.htm
    Absolute URL example:
    Using relative URLs will reduce user access time to web pages because the browser will not have to resolve the web site name every time it occurs on the page. It will ensure a smooth transition if the pages must be moved.
  • The use of frames is strongly discouraged, and here's a few reasons why:
    • Some internet browsers don't support frames.
    • Search engines don't like them. If they do index a page a visitor coming into the Web site from a search engine link may find a page without reference, links, or other means to connect into the rest of the Web site.
    • Visitors can't bookmark your web site Except for the homepage. Someone who wants to bookmark any page of your web site for further reference, will have a hard time doing so. The URL of every page will always be the same.
    • You can't print properly With frames. It is very difficult to print what you see on a full view of the page online. Depending on your browser and version, you will have to print each frame of the page individually.
    • Frames are hard to code and difficult to maintain: it's hard to keep track of the files and what happens when.
    • Users don't like frames. Studies have shown that the majority of online users do not like frames. This in itself should be enough to not even consider frames. Why would you deliberately turn visitors off from your web site?
  • If frames are used, you need to use the <noframes> and </noframes> tags to make your pages readable by nonframes browsers. You will need to keep the information in the frames and noframes sections in synchronization.
  • Tables will often not display until their entire contents have been downloaded. Long tables with lots of text or nested tables will be blank for as long as it takes to download everything to the users machine. If you have a large table, try breaking it into multiple tables.
  • Long web pages should contain shortcuts to the various sections and links back to the top of the page.
  • Make "hot text" links meaningful. Put links on keywords not "click here".
       Bad: To learn HMTL, click here.
       Better: To learn HTML, see Learning HTML (redundant)
       Best: See Learning HTML for more information.
  • Don't link to empty pages.
  • Don't place or ask to have pages placed on the server before they are ready! For example: pages containing little information and/or a significant number of nonfunctioning or dead end links.
  • Keep your text simple. It should be clear, concise and readable. Layout and organization of information should be easy to understand. Complex designs can confuse users. A consistent design will allow users to concentrate on content without having to waste time figuring out how to maneuver your layout.
  • Expand abbreviations and acronyms the first time they occur on each page

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More Tips...
Check your web pages in other browsers. There are online tools to help you view your site with other browsers without having to download the actual browser (see the Resources page). Sometimes your site will look great to you, but to someone with another browser your site looks awful. Test your site and make some changes if necessary.

Don't design your pages for a 1024x768 screen size and fill it with text from edge to edge: Keep text narrow. It is easier to read text that in narrow columns. Did you ever wonder why newspapers keep their columns so narrow? It's to make it easier to read. It's even more important on the Web pages because your readers are reading on their computer screen. And if they can't read everything without scrolling sideways, then they probably won't read it at all.
More on Screen Widths...
One of the inescapable truths of Web design is that you can't control the user's screen. But you can control your layout with fixed width elements.

To account for different screen resolutions, center the entire layout horizontally. Then the whites space on both left and right appears to be deliberate and planned.
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