Each section homepage (the first tier pages off the homepage—Student Life, Academics, and the like) should include approximately two short opening paragraphs of text that, together, tell the story of USF, and individually introduce that content area and highlight key pages within each section.
These paragraphs should be a well-written introduction to the sectionʼs concerns,composed with an external audience in mind. They should include links to the various site pages of importance. (Most of these links will be redundant to the sectionʼs navigation, but will give it more context and make information more accessible.) It will be important to keep these short, so they can be read quickly and easily. As noted in the general Writing for the Web recommendations, these intro pages should be around 200-300 words in length.
Whatʼs a page?
This might seem like a silly question, but often Web sites become unruly behemoths when pages are created, then lost and forgotten. We know that there will always be a little messiness around the edges but with a redesign we have the opportunity to review and streamline as much as possible.
Pages are often created when someone has some information that needs to be on the Web. Great. However, when doing a site content review and/or with each future consideration, there are a few questions to ask:
- Is this an event or news item? If, yes, it should not be a page, it should be entered into the system as content that can be shown on more than one page and repurposed for use in various contexts. (We often call this dynamic content).
- Is this information (or a class of information) that should exist in one place on the site and wonʼt change frequently? If the answer yes, then it might be worthy of a page. The next question must also be answered yes.
- Does this information exist elsewhere on the site? And related, is there someone else on campus more directly in charge of this information that I should be coordinating with? If the answer is yes, then briefly mention of the information and link to the existing page. This extra step helps cut down on redundant and out-of-date information throughout the site. And in the end itʼs less work for everyone.
- If this question is being considered during a content review process, consolidate redundant pages (or simply eliminate some) and find the most logical place in the architecture for the one page. The “owner” of this page should be the one who has access to the most up-to-date information for it.
General inside page main content area
In reviewing content on any interior page, often the biggest problem is heavy blocks of text that are not easy to read (often the result of transferring information from a printed format to the Web). This is where the Writing for the Web tactics are most critical.
The higher in the site map a page is, the more carefully we need to consider quick readability, style, and message. Most pages should not exceed 500 words.
Pages deep in the site with very technical information can be longer, but even lists of policies and procedures lose their usefulness (i.e. no one reads them) when they run down a long page without use of headers, bullets, or other ways to break up the information.
Page sidebars should be reserved for content that supplements the main area of the page. At the very least, this might include related links or available document downloads – and at best, can include rotating stories, quotes, testimonials, or images that help to explain and bring life to the main content area.
On pages where the sidebar is used for sub-page navigation, only very pertinent information (such as contact info or deadlines) should be added. This additional information should always be placed below any navigational elements.