Best Practices for Website Content Providers
(rev. January 2016)
- Using Images
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Writing for the Web
- Online Distribution of Full-Text Publications
Image File Formats
- .jpg (or .jpeg): Best for natural images such as photographs. JPGs work well with wide ranges of colors, tones and gradients.
- .png: Best for complex graphics and illustrations (not photographs) with text, tonal changes, broad ranges of color, and transparency variations. A 24-bit PNG produces even more colors but increases the file size.
- .gif: Appropriate for graphics with no color gradations, such as line art and simple logos.
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. Uploading large images and using the CMS to resize them will cause the page to load slowly.
- Resize images proportionally so the image doesn’t appear squashed or stretched.
- Always include alternative text for your images.
The following image editing tools provide a wide variety of options and complexity. Choose one based upon your own individual needs.
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.
- 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.
- Copyright.gov: Copyright Basics
- The Best Ways to Be Sure You’re Legally Using Online Photos
- Creative Commons: About the Licenses
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
What is SEO?
Search engine optimization is the process of improving the position that your website appears at in the "organic" search results returned by sites such as Google. By following a few simple guidelines you can help users to reach your site more quickly and efficiently.
View our complete SEO Guidelines.
Page Titles & Page Headings
Ensure all pages have a unique page title. Ensure page headings are meaningful, succinct and directly related to the content on the page.
Search engines can better index your site when your pages titles and headings are both unique and meaningful. The page title is typically what appears in the first line of search results.
Brief, meaningful page headings that succinctly describe what the pages are about helps site visitors to quickly scan a site for the information they need.
By using semantic page headings and sub-headings (h1, h2, h3, h4, et cetera), you are guiding your site visitors through the page as well as establishing hierarchy of content. At the same time, you are enhancing both the usability and accessibility of the site.
Helpful SEO Links:
- Google Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide
- Steps to a Google-friendly Site
- 8 great on-page SEO techniques
- Using Meaningful Headers on Your Web Pages
Writing for the Web
There are many, many resources available to help you write 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.
- 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.
- Left-align text. Left-aligned text is easier to read than justified or right-aligned text.
- 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.
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.
- A List Apart: Writing is Thinking
- Content & Usability: Writing for the Web
- How to Write Successfully for the Web
- Best Practices for Writing for Online Readers
- Writing for Global Audiences
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.