New Mexico State University Web sites and pages should be developed with the following principles in mind:
Through every step of Web design and development, consider the needs, goals and expectations of your site’s users. Clearly define and prioritize your audiences. Then design the content, layout, organization, navigation, structure and functionality for those audiences.
Make sure your users know your site is part of NMSU. Design Web sites in such a way that every element of the site supports the university brand. Use the Brand Identity Website to guide the online creative process.
Content is the heart and soul of every Web site. Without it, most sites wouldn’t exist. Create content that is engaging, interesting, up-to-date, accurate, on-brand and most importantly, relevant and valuable to your audiences.
Think about what your users want from your site. Consider how they want it to work, what words and language resonate and what information is most important to them. Make every element of the site intuitive for your users (not just for the site’s designers or department heads).
Sound visual design
Most people prefer attractive sites, but they must also be functional. Good design comes from thoughtful use of the university’s color palette, white space and typography while also positioning and leveraging existing Web conventions.
Simplicity and white space
The approved set of templates and WordPress theme was designed to provide design flexibility and ensure proper management of white space. The white space surrounding page elements provides a visual pause. Filling in every inch of available white space is much like removing all of the oxygen in a room. It crowds your page features and creates a visual strain. Best practices to provide a visual relief include: use simple language, apply consistent navigation throughout, and use clear design with minimal but functional page design and/or interface elements.
Keep design and content separate. Write Web code that presents a site’s information in a structured, organized and intentional way, and use CSS to lay out the content.
Accessibility (section 508 compliance)
Like our university, our users are diverse. Site content needs to be accessible and useful to all of those users. New Mexico State University is committed to maintaining fully accessible web sites for persons with disabilities and the University web pages have been designed in accordance with the Level AA Recommendations from W3C’s web specifications.
A skip link should be provided to allow users to skip over repeated blocks of navigation to access the content of a page. Persons using screen readers or handheld devices would otherwise have to scroll or press the “tab” key to get to the content section each time they visit a new page.
Alternative Text for Images
For every non-text element (images, charts, or graphs) use Alt Text or provide a long description. In many cases you can ask the question “If I could not use this image, what would I put in its place?” to determine appropriate alternative text. Please review the following guidelines on writing and selecting alternative text.
1. Always consider context & relevance when writing alt text
2. Should be between 5-15 words
3. Should NOT contain the file name
4. If the image is purely decorative, use null <img src=“squiggle.jpg” alt=“”>
5. For complex images, consider using a caption or linking to a page with a longer description.
Keeping sites fresh and accurate requires consistent updates, revisions and modifications. Sites should be built for simple, efficient management and evolution. Web management tools should be chosen based on the needs of the sites’ managers and contributors, not simply the Web developers or programmers.
Accuracy and consistency can be enhanced by utilizing the university’s CMS, which allows for an easy repurposing of material that can be edited in one location and accessed by a large number of users. Make sure your content is accurate and has a consistent presentation before you publish it.
Maintaining and Updating Content
- Develop a plan for content publishing within your organization. Set a schedule and keep to it.
- Remove outdated content from the Web server and archive it on disk.
- Remove test pages or draft pages from the server.
- Do not include text on a university pages that says “under construction.” If you do not have content, then don’t publish the page.
- Make sure all links work. Do this often, at least semi-annually.
- Editorially check content for spelling, grammar and proper style and correct errors.
- Make sure the page meets basic accessibility requirements.