Layout and Design

The following design tips will help make your website easier to use and understand.

Strive for consistency

Strive for a design and navigation that is consistent with the Missouri State top-level pages. When page design and navigation systems change drastically, users are more likely to leave the site or have less confidence in the validity of the information.

Use the Missouri State web templates, Missouri State - Mountain Grove web templates or Missouri State - West Plains web templates to obtain optimum uniformity with your Missouri State campus homepage. Or follow general text specifications when creating your own template.

Name your homepage correctly

Use default.htm or default.asp as the name of the primary web file (homepage). When named default.htm or default.asp, the opening filename does not need to be specified in web addresses. For example, the following web addresses both open the homepage, but the first is shorter and easier to remember:

Maintain persistent URLs

Name your files with concise names, such as contacts.htm, and avoid using spaces in the filenames. Also, use the same filename as long as possible—this helps maintain any links that point to your website. Finally, avoid grouping your files into folders by year or version. For example, don't place all of the files from 2001 into a folder named 2001. This practice dates your material and prompts you to change your web address in the future.

Allow easy scanning

Users scan web pages more than they read the full content of web pages. Facilitate this activity by using headings to break your web pages into sections. Also, name your links with descriptive titles rather than using "click here" and use a link color that is easily discernible from your text or heading color. See the following examples:

  • Bad example: For information on graphics, click here.
  • Good example: For information on graphics, see the Graphics Guidelines.
  • Best example: See the Graphics Guidelines for more information.

Treat web pages the same as other publications

Spell check and proofread your pages, and have others review your work.

Avoid opening new windows to display content

Users understand and expect the "back" button to work, and a new window prevents the "back" button from working. Opening a new window may also confuse and annoy users by cluttering their screens and causing accessibility hurdles. If you must open a new window, you should warn users somewhere on your web page that this will occur.

Make sure each web page is individually understandable

A search engine may take a user directly to any page within your site—make sure that page will be understandable on its own. Although the web allows you to link several pages into your HTML documents, your web page should not depend entirely upon other pages to be meaningful.

Provide easier viewing of long documents

Consider doing two things to make it easier for people to view and use long documents (documents longer than three pages):

  • Break a large document into several smaller html documents.
  • Provide a non-hypertext version of the entire document for those who prefer to download the information.