Web Publishing Guidelines for Faculty/Instructional Web Page Authors
Academic or instructional faculty Web page authors at TMCC are responsible for all content contained within the pages they publish. Where applicable, with regards to "Academic Freedom," they are expected to follow the highest standards of quality and comply with the college's general policies, World Wide Web policies, appropriate Web publishing procedures and established print publication policies.
Define Scope and Purpose of Website
- Decide on the purpose and goals of your site.
In most cases, the goal (or one of a few) may be universal amongst the academic faculty (i.e. to make available course content to students); nevertheless, careful consideration and time must be given to identify all of the (main) goals of your site. If your site's purpose is not lucid, it can be a very problematic situation for both you, the author, to maintain the website and with your intended targeted-audience (students) to access the intended information.
- Identify the needs of your site's visitors.
The content you provide and the way you present this content should be in line with the needs of your site's visitors. This will determine the effectiveness of the site.
- Keep it simple.
The more complex the page and content therein, the harder it is to (a) make it work reasonably well for the most popular browsers and (b) be effective in communicating your message. Complexity can be distracting to the visitor.
Develop the Information Architecture
- Make a site map before you begin.
Make a list of all the pages that you think you'll have on your site. Work out a hierarchy of pages and folders (folders are also know as sub-directories). Organize files into folders. Create a root folder for your department or organization which will contain the sub-directories and files.
- Prioritize and group content/think of your audience.
Content that is clear and well organized, as in printed publications, will make it easier for your audience to find and retrieve the information they want.
Create the Design/Author the Markup and Content
- Use clear headings, lists and consistent, appropriate content structure.
For accessibility and usability purposes, and to simply make Web content more available to all users, efforts should be taken to author content that is inline with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 1.0).
Training Notice: Faculty are encouraged to attend website development training, which is held each semester during the professional development days. The training provides appropriate instruction and solutions on authoring faculty websites.
- Use the (current) TMCC Logo
Placing the college's brand or logo on an instructional/faculty website helps the intended targeted-audience (usually students, but anyone can come across the website) identify TMCC content. Please note: the college's logo color should never be altered and the logo should never be distorted, cut apart, or redrawn. The words "TMCC" and "Truckee Meadows Community College" are part of the logo, and should not be separated from it or re-set in other typefaces. See the college's logo usage guidelines for additional information.
- Relate your pages.
If you have more than one Web page, relate them by using common graphic elements or common text formatting.
- Test your pages in other browsers.
Check your Web page from several different browsers. Something that looks fine in Firefox sometimes looks very different using Internet Explorer.
- Keep page/file sizes small.
Keep the overall page size (including graphic elements) to 50k or smaller. This limit decreases the time that browsers spend downloading the page. Some users may have 56K modems, so it is important to keep download time to a minimum to avoid losing or alienating part of your audience.
- Avoid overusing "bells and whistles."
Clean and simple design works best; attributes such as centering, garish colors, blinking text, animation, etc., create visual confusion that detracts from the page's effectiveness. Flashing text is very distracting and is rarely used effectively. It is also worth noting that it is irritating to the viewer.
- Use the ALT attribute with images.
Especially menu buttons, to specify alternate text so that the page is still usable by those who have images "turned off," are browsing with a text-only browser or use an assistive technology device to access information on the Web.
Example: <img src="/graphics/email.gif" alt="Email" />
- Use title and meta tags.
The proper use of these tags is essential if pages are to be indexed correctly in the TMCC website and major third-party search engines.
- Use the height and width attributes with images.
These attributes tell the browser how big (usually in pixels) the image should measure, which helps it compose the page quicker since it does not have to wait for the image to actually download before it knows the size. The result is that users are often able to start reading the text on the page before all of the graphics have downloaded.
Example: <img src="/graphics/email.gif" height="20" width="20" alt="Email" />
- Create an "image" or "graphics" directory for all your site images.
This step will keep your files better organized, and it will be much easier to accomplish site updates, re-alignments and re-designs.
- Keep file and folder names short, descriptive, and all lower case with no spaces.
Some browsers and/or operating systems, cannot read capital letters correctly in URIs--few can understand blank spaces. All main entry pages should be named "index.html" or "index.asp" (Correct way: "mypage.html" Incorrect way: "My Page.html")
- Use white backgrounds.
It's challenging to make backgrounds "work" well with a page. Flashy ones distract visitors from the content of the page, large ones increase download time, and even subtle and tasteful backgrounds often display in unexpected ways when visitors view them in 16-color mode with the third-party Web browsers (i.e. AOL) or on their not-so-new computer. White backgrounds work well with just about any page content, allowing for more flexibility for other graphic elements on the page, such as headers, buttons, etc.
- Keep in mind that text sizes may vary.
Text sizes may vary from browser-to-browser depending on the default fonts and sizes defined for each browser on each platform (Windows, Mac, etc.) and depending on font and size preferences set by individual users. For example, even though your text may wrap nicely, or align nicely with graphics in your Macintosh version of Firefox, it will look very different when a Windows user looks at it with their version of Firefox or a Macintosh user who has a different screen resolution than yours.
- Avoid overusing graphics.
Graphics are necessary and helpful, but they also slow the "load time," (the time it takes for your pages to fully display in the browser window) of your pages. In most cases, visitors have come for information rather than to look at your images so keep them small — both in file size and display size — and give them a purpose: to inform, direct or link to another page. Every graphic adds visual complexity and download time to the page.
- Avoid using the construction sign or saying "This Page is Under Construction."
All Web pages are constantly "under construction" and evolving; that is the nature of the medium.
Launch, Promote and Maintain Website
- Link to TMCC.
All instructional/faculty Web pages should have a link back to the main TMCC website (www.tmcc.edu). Develop a footer to be displayed on all pages which gives visitors contact information, a link back to your department's or organization's home page and the TMCC Home Page.
- Announce your site.
Register your site with the major search engines. They will eventually find you but it could take weeks or months. By actively registering your site, you can dramatically increase your visitors within a few weeks. Also, send out an email notice to those who may have an interest in your site; you should place the URI (Web address) on all of your business cards, course syllabi and request a listing for the TMCC faculty Web page directory.
- Keep pages up-to-date.
Web authoring is a job that has no end — publishing is just the beginning. Most of the work is in the maintenance; pages must be updated, removed or added. Links must be periodically checked. URIs are constantly changing, especially outside links. Remove all unnecessary files! If files are no longer an active part of the site, delete them or download them to a CD or USB memory stick for off-site storage. Search engines have access to all files on the server even if you have removed all links to them.