Introduction

We have built the university website, and specifically the “back end” software, with several guiding principles in mind.

Manage Content, Not Code

Content is still king on the web, and getting that content into the hands of your audience is your primary focus. So what we are trying to do is create a system where you as a user can disseminate the information you have without worrying about all the baggage that comes along with maintaining a website. To that end, we will be working with a Content Management System (CMS) so that you can focus on the content.

Consistency is Key

Are your navigations links on the left or the right? Where do you put your phone number (and how do you format it)? These are all important questions, but the biggest thing you should know is that what is more important than “left” or “right” is that across the site it is always on the left or always on the right. Usability testing shows us that consistency matters much more than the placement.

Accessibility is Paramount

Making the university website accessible to all users is not just a good idea, it’s the law. Just like you are required to make the entrance to your building accessible by wheelchair, your website must also be accessible to everyone. This is such an important topic, we have an entire section devoted to accessibility.

Graceful Degradation and Universal Design

Related to accessibility are the concepts of Graceful Degradation and Universal Design, both of which have benefits to all users, not just ones with disabilities. When we are talking about a website gracefully degrading, what we mean is that you should be able to strip away technology layers on a website and still have the website function. For example, if you disable CSS on your web browser, can you still navigate the site? How about technologies like JavaScript and newer versions of CSS? If the user cannot use these technologies, or has them disabled for some reason, does the site still function? By having a site that degrades gracefully you insure that more and more users will be able to access it.

When you are building a new building, you don’t create one entrance for foot traffic and another for people in wheelchairs. By building the main entrance to be wheelchair accessible, you also benefit everyone that is in a walker, uses a cane, or is pushing a dolly full of stuff. This is what is known as Universal Design. When building a website, we approach it the same way. We build one site that everyone can use, and don’t send certain groups off to another place (the back entrance) in order to gain access.