UIC Web Strategy & Standards
UIC is dedicated to upholding a uniform strategy and standards for the creation, delivery and maintenance of the Red WordPress multisite theme and functions, as well as an individual websites’ content on the multisite. This is a living document based on the values of UIC and best practices for the creation and delivery of information on the web that will change as UIC explores new services, systems and strategies.
Look for more information on generating content within the Red WordPress multisite?
A companion UIC Web Content Style Guide can be found here. This style guide provides a navigation map on content creation and maintenance, writing for the web and other best practices for web elements.
Values of the UIC Web Presence
Focus on the user
User needs drive all of the content and services that make up the web presence. All web content and services are regularly assessed through user testing and use data. Areas of the web presence that do not meet the standards of our users are retired or improved.
The web presence respects and builds upon the varied skills, backgrounds and experiences of its diverse users through inclusive language and services. The tone of all web content should be friendly and easily understandable to a diverse audience.
Fairness for all
The web presence works to ensure equal access to information by providing services that meet or exceed standards for accessibility and usability.
The web presence employs innovative new services and information practices that improve the online delivery of UIC resources and services to our users.
The web presence consists of services that engage with users and collaborators in the University, in Chicago and with communities throughout the State, the Midwest region and beyond.
Securing User Data - GDPR Compliance
The web presence protects and upholds the University’s commitment to maintain the privacy of users of University websites.
All sites on the Red Network are GDPR compliant, with a floating cookie notification banner that automatically appears on the bottom of the page.
Goals of the UIC Web Presence
The UIC web presence should provide:
- Simple navigation and search systems that seamlessly connect users to appropriate information and resources
- Cohesive, branded, user-friendly experiences across our many entities and services
- Content that is for our many and varied audiences
- Frequent, iterative updates to ensure users are getting current, accurate information
- Meaningful connections between our users and staff, spaces and services, both online and physical
- Efficient tools and workflows for content creation, editing and publishing
The audiences we serve include:
- Prospective and enrolled undergraduate students, domestic and international
- Prospective and enrolled graduate and professional students, domestic and international
- Prospective, employed and retired university faculty and staff
- Clinical staff
- External researchers
- UIC campus community
- Peer institutions and partner organizations
Content Design Principles
Web content is not the same as print content. Web content is much more than copy—it also includes images, media, interactive elements, structural and navigational elements, and metadata. We design, iteratively test and improve our web content based on best practices and web standards.
Good content design always starts with user needs. Every piece of content (and every system and service) should exist based on an end-user persona and a valid, actionable user need.
Personas are an archetype for a broad user group. Every piece of content should identify one user persona who represents their primary audience. “Anyone” = “no one.”
- User Needs
A valid user need does not assume a solution or a tool. First identify the need, then design a solution based on that need. User needs are based on evidence from analytics or user research.
User needs also must be based on actions or tasks, following this template: As a [persona], I need to [actionable task], so I can [desired outcome].
Good example: As an undergraduate student (persona), I need to find my academic program requirements (task), so I can complete my degree in four years (desired outcome).
Bad example: As an undergraduate student, I need to use the course catalog (tool assumed), so I know what courses you have (not actionable).
Content should be easy to read and easy to use, following best practices for web writing and formatting. Usable interfaces only work if they contain usable content.
- Plain Language
Language should not exceed an 8th-grade reading level and should be free of jargon and unclear acronyms. In our diverse campuses, it is especially important to use plain language, as many of our students do not speak English as their first language.
- Calls to Action
Every piece of content should clearly and concisely convey what the user needs to do to meet their need. Even informational content should clearly indicate what the user can “do” with the information.
Content that is infrequently maintained will become inaccurate. We regularly review our content to ensure that it is timely and correct.
Our services should not exclude any user based on ability. We create web content that meets accessibility standards and considers all user needs.
HTML is more accessible than embedded documents. When documents are absolutely necessary, use an accessible PDF format.
When writing content about our services, use inclusive language and consider user needs based on ability. For example, if writing about visiting a classroom location, include relevant information about accessible transit options, accessible parking and elevators.
Our content and services should be findable, on our website and across the Web.
- Right Content, Right Place, Right Time
Put the right content in the right web property and deliver it when it’s most useful to our users.
- Original Source
Content should live – and be maintained – in one place and shared across all of our platforms. This ensures that information is consistent.
Example: Approved course descriptions appear in the course catalog. Do not recreate content on individual sites which can become out-of-sync; link to original source.
Consistent labels that use plain language will help users find content on our site, in search engines and at times, in our physical spaces.
Using appropriate formatting and web elements, such as headings and bullets, will help users easily scan content on our site, and search engines will be able identify important pieces of information.
Design and content strategy cannot succeed without a governance structure that ensures the web presence is meeting goals and standards.
- Don’t slow down delivery.
- Be available when needed.
- Remove—don’t create—roadblocks.
- Decisions when they’re needed, at the right level.
- Decisions should be evidence-based and focused on user needs.
- Editorial leads have authority to make decisions, and only escalate when absolutely necessary.
- Use iterative design and development.
- Use the right people, not too many.
- The number of people working on web content consist of the minimum number of people needed to complete the work and keep the process agile.
- Content creators should include people who are focused, motivated and empowered to complete the project.
- Go see for yourself.
- It is everyone’s responsibility to stay informed—pay attention to communications and ask frequent questions.
- Only do something if it adds value.
- Value comes from meeting user needs.
- We explore ideas that could add value, and if they don’t, we stop.
- Trust and verify.
- Trust and empower your colleagues so they can focus on creating great web content.
All UIC faculty, staff and students are stakeholders in UIC’s web presence and are encouraged to share feedback and participate in usability testing and design activities. The following departments and committees are responsible for design, content, functionality and usability assessment efforts for the UIC web presence.
The UIC office of Digital Experience oversees adherence to brand, accessibility and usability standards; coordinates, approves and facilitates development on the code base; and manages creation and deployment of websites on the RED WordPress multisite. The office also provides user support and training.
Technology Solutions provides and maintains the systems and support for the hosting, user management and integrations with other UIC systems of the RED WordPress multisite.
Marketing and Brand Management
The UIC Office of Marketing and Brand Management sets the branding guidelines for the University. All primary web properties must conform to these guidelines, and secondary properties should conform whenever possible.
Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs. “Usability.gov,” July 18, 2013. http://www.usability.gov/.
“Government Service Design Manual.” Accessed July 31, 2015. https://www.gov.uk/service-manual.
Halvorson, Kristina, and Melissa Rach. Content Strategy for the Web. 2nd ed. Berkeley, CA: New Riders, 2012.
Palmer, Brandon. “UIC University Library Communications Audit Report: Mission & Key Messages, Current Communications, Key Findings & Recommendations,” 2015.
“UIC University Library Web Content Strategy.” Accessed June 15, 2017.
Welchman, Lisa. Managing Chaos: Digital Governance by Design. Brooklyn, NY: Rosenfeld Media, 2015.