UIC Web Strategy & Standards

(Updated 11/28/18)

Overview

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

Goals of the UIC Web Presence

The UIC web presence should provide:

  1. Simple navigation and search systems that seamlessly connect users to appropriate information and resources
  2. Cohesive, branded, user-friendly experiences across our many entities and services
  3. Content that is for our many and varied audiences
  4. Frequent, iterative updates to ensure users are getting current, accurate information
  5. Meaningful connections between our users and staff, spaces and services, both online and physical
  6. Efficient tools and workflows for content creation, editing and publishing

Audiences

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
  • Alumni
  • External researchers
  • Donors
  • 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.

Useful

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

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).

Usable

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.

Accurate

Content that is infrequently maintained will become inaccurate. We regularly review our content to ensure that it is timely and correct.

Accessible

Our services should not exclude any user based on ability. We create web content that meets accessibility standards and considers all user needs.

  • Standards

Web content should meet Level AA of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines and the Illinois Information Technology Accessibility Act (IITAA) standards.

HTML is more accessible than embedded documents. When documents are absolutely necessary, use an accessible PDF format.

  • Content

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.

Findable

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.

  • Labels

Consistent labels that use plain language will help users find content on our site, in search engines and at times, in our physical spaces.

  • Formatting

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.

Governance

Design and content strategy cannot succeed without a governance structure that ensures the web presence is meeting goals and standards.

Governance Principles

  1. Don’t slow down delivery.
    1. Be available when needed.
    2. Remove—don’t create—roadblocks.
  2. Decisions when they’re needed, at the right level.
    1. Decisions should be evidence-based and focused on user needs.
    2. Editorial leads have authority to make decisions, and only escalate when absolutely necessary.
    3. Use iterative design and development.
  3. Use the right people, not too many.
    1. 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.
    2. Content creators should include people who are focused, motivated and empowered to complete the project.
  4. Go see for yourself.
    1. It is everyone’s responsibility to stay informed—pay attention to communications and ask frequent questions.
  5. Only do something if it adds value.
    1. Value comes from meeting user needs.
    2. We explore ideas that could add value, and if they don’t, we stop.
  6. Trust and verify.
    1. Trust and empower your colleagues so they can focus on creating great web content.

Governance Roles

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.

Digital Communications

The UIC Office of Digital Communications 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.

Academic Computing and Communications Center

ACCC provides and maintains the systems and support for the hosting, user management and integrations with other UIC systems of the RED WordPress multisite.

UIC Office of 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.

Web Advisory Committee

The Web Advisory Committee is comprised of representatives from all UIC colleges and vice chancellor offices to inform and recommend enhancements and improvements to the design and function of the RED WordPress multisite based on the needs of site users and content creators.

Resources

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.