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Web Standards

Content strategy

Good content design allows people to perform tasks or find information they need from our website simply and quickly using the most appropriate content format available. Our content design principles are based on research into user behavior, analytics and feedback.

If you need web content design assistance please contact Andy Simonsen in Communications and Marketing.

Content principles

1. Appropriate

Publish content that is right for the user and for our business

There’s really only one central principle of good content: it should be appropriate for our business, for our users, and for its context. Appropriate in its method of delivery, in its style and structure, and above all in its substance.

2. Useful

Define a clear, specific purpose for each piece of content; evaluate content against this purpose

To know whether or not you have the right content for a page (or module or section), you have to know what that content is supposed to accomplish. Greater specificity produces better results.

3. User-centered

Adopt the cognitive frameworks of our users

On a web project, user-centered design means that the final product must meet real user needs and fulfill real human desires.

4. Clear

Seek clarity in all things

When we say that something is clear, we mean that it works; it communicates. Good content speaks to people in a language they understand and is organized in ways that make it easy to use.

5. Consistent

Consistency, within reason

Consistency of language and presentation reduces the reader’s cognitive load and makes it easier for them to understand what they read. Inconsistency, on the other hand, adds cognitive effort, hinders understanding, and distracts readers.

That’s what our style guides are for.

6. Concise

Omit needless content

Does it matter if we have too much content? Yes. More content makes everything more difficult to find. Also, more content results in a decline in quality because we have finite resources to manage it. We should only publish what we’ve learned that our users really need.

7. Maintained

Publish no content without a support plan

Good content design practice ensures that content on this site stays accurate, relevant, current and optimized both for users and search engines. When content is no longer accurate or useful it needs to be deleted. The Governance Guidelines explain how we maintain and review content.

Writing great content

Writing great content clearly, in plain English, and optimized for the web helps people understand and find the information they need quickly and easily. This approach is based on research about how people use the Internet.


As a state resource, we must write so that our site is accessible to anybody. Our users have different reading abilities and check our site on a range of devices. We are required to meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) level AA 2.0.

WCAG 2.0 covers a wide range of recommendations for making web content more accessible. Following these guidelines will make content accessible to a wider range of people with disabilities, including blindness and low vision, deafness and hearing loss, learning disabilities, cognitive limitations, limited movement, speech disabilities, photosensitivity and combinations of these. Following these guidelines will also make our web content more usable to users in general.

You may also want to access the Disability Language Style Guide.

Guidelines to ensure readability

Visitors to our website are often in a hurry to find the information they need. They may scan a page as they look for quick answers to their questions. Help our readers find what they need by following these guidelines:

  • Be concise
  • Use heads and subheads to “chunk” your content
  • Use short lists and bullets to organize information
  • Write short paragraphs—even shorter than you would on paper
  • Write short sentences

Know your audience

Your writing will be most effective if you understand who you’re writing for.

To understand your audience you should know:

  • how they behave, what they’re interested in or need help with—so your writing will answer their questions
  • their vocabulary—so that you can use the same terms and phrases they’ll use to search for content
  • when you have more than one audience—so your writing is easy for everyone.

The HFS Audience

Our website audience is primarily prospective residents who need information about on campus housing and dining. Our secondary audience are residents and parents, then staff and faculty.