PMACS Web Team

Best Practices for Website Content Providers

Writing for the Web

The basic principles of effective web writing are simple and universal: 

  • Each page should have a purpose. Structure and write your content with the intention of helping your visitors quickly and efficiently accomplish a goal or answer a question. For example, what are the lab’s main research projects? How do I find the curriculum for an educational program? Who do I contact if I have questions about the organization?
  • Write for your audience. Your content may not be for everyone, so avoid generalities. If possible, gather feedback from potential visitors.
  • Use clear, simple language that is geared to your audience. Visitors may abandon your site if they can’t quickly grasp what you’ve written and find information.
  • Online writing is visual. Break up long sections with white space and appropriate section headings and sub-headings. This helps visitors to scan content without fear of skipping something important.
    • Including meaningful graphics or photographs may complement your written content and create visual pacing. 
    • Organize appropriate content into bulleted or numbered lists. Lists are easier to scan and break up content on the page.
  • Write left to right, top to bottom. Write with accessibility in mind, creating content that is clear, structured and readable. Read full article on Writing Accessibility.
  • Proofread for spelling and grammatical errors. Don’t rely on spell check! Consider having a professional review your work, or a colleague who hasn’t previously seen the material. 
  • Structure your content. Use headings to structure your content and styles to emphasize information. See full typography tips page on more ways to format your content for the web.

What to avoid:

  • Avoid using jargon, slang and complex sentence structures whenever possible
  • Avoid multiple clauses and phrases, and lots of information stops and commas.
  • Avoid acronyms; visitors may not be familiar with them.
  • Avoid overly long paragraphs. Consider deleting sentences that don’t support the main point.

Helpful Links: 


Image File Formats

  • .jpg (or .jpeg): Jpg is an acronym for joint photographic graphics. It is best for used for photographs. 
  • .png: Png is an acronym for portable networks graphics. It is best for web graphics and illustrations and supports transparency backgrounds.
  • .gif: Gif is an acronym for graphics interchange format. It is commonly used for animation graphics. 
  • .svg: Svg is an acronym for scalable vector graphics. It is ideal for simple graphics such as logos.
Helpful Links

Image Use & Editing

  • Images and graphics should be relevant to the purpose of the site and the content of the page.
  • Crop your images the desired dimensions and resolution before uploading them to your site.
  • Resize images proportionally so the image doesn’t appear squashed or stretched. 
  • Always include meaningful alternative text for your images. 
  • Follow SEO guidelines for images and naming best practices.

To edit images, see list of photo editing software

Image Permissions & Privacy

Content on the web is highly accessible and inherently sharable. It’s easy to copy and republish material without thinking about copyright or permissions, and it’s often difficult to determine if an image is truly “free”.

According to the United States Copyright Office,  “Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States (title 17, U.S.Code) to the authors of ‘original works of authorship,’ including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works.” Copyright law protects the rights of creators of artistic content from having their work misused, and give them the ability to control how their work is used. Copyright law applies to both digital and printed publishing.

By illegally using someone else’s photo or graphic without their permission, you’re putting yourself at risk of being sued or fined.

Best Practices
  • If you aren't sure an image is copyright-protected, assume that it is. Better safe than sorry! 
  • Read the fine print when purchasing images from a stock photo service to ensure the license is appropriate for your use. 
  • Seek out openly-licensed images for which the owner has granted reprint permissions. Look for photos with a Creative Commons license; again, be sure to check the fine print since there are a range of Creative Commons licenses. 
    • Flickr has a great selection of Creative Commons-licensed images, arranged by type of license.
Helpful Links

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) 

SEO is important for your site. Be sure to look and follow the SEO Guidelines page to your site.

Online Distribution of Full-Text Publications

Most publishers place severe restrictions on the posting of full-text articles on public websites. If you wish to provide full-text articles online or via email, we strongly recommend you consult with the University’s Scholarly Communication Librarian to verify that you have the rights to do so under your contract with the publisher. For more information, please refer to the ScholarlyCommons website.