The website checklist can help:
- As you build your website, so things are on track when it’s time to launch
- Before launch, as a self-audit to prepare your site for review
- After launch, as part of an annual review to keep your site current
Best practices and editorial standards
Following web best practices and Washington University editorial standards helps reinforce the reputation of Washington University as a world-class institution. If you really want your site to shine, also see our tips for writing for the web.
☐ Page titles are descriptive and succinct
A page’s title appears at the top of the page and should accurately convey the page’s contents. For advice and examples, see our guidelines for page titles.
☐ Subheadings are used to make pages scannable
Subheadings make pages more scannable and visually appealing. Use the preset headings (found under the paragraph dropdown), rather than manually applying all-caps, bolding, underlining, centering or text color. See our guidelines for subheadings to learn more.
☐ Links are descriptive
Link and button text should clearly describe the page or information it links to. A good test: A link’s target should be understandable even if you don’t read the surrounding text. See more tips and examples of effective links.
☐ Footer has contact information
Typically, a site’s footer should identify the organization/group responsible for the site, as well as their contact information.
On a desktop computer, menus include the links across the top and down the right of each page. On mobile devices, the menu is accessible from the top-right menu icon (☰).
☐ In site menus, page names are concise and parallel
In the header menu, all pages should fit on one line (typically eight pages or fewer). If needed, you can shorten a page’s title for the menu. See our tips and examples for page titles in menus.
☐ In site menus, each page is listed only once
A site menu is like a traditional outline: Each page has its place in an overall hierarchy, and the same page should not be repeated in two different sections. If a page appears in a left menu, for example, it should not also appear in the header or footer menu.
As the front door to your website, your homepage should look good, highlight your most important message(s), and help people quickly find the information they need.
☐ Homepage addresses both user objectives and business objectives.
In many cases, user and business objectives may overlap or be the same. If an element does not support either one, consider whether it’s truly necessary on your homepage. See our tips for building a homepage that meets your goals.
These items affect the usability of your site, as well as how well your site ranks in search engines like Google and Bing.
☐ Page content and images are legible across devices
The WashU Web theme is built to be mobile-friendly, but a mobile review is still important. A 2015 report found that more than half of all visits to the top 10,000 websites in the US were from mobile phones or tablets. Tap through your pages on a mobile device (or emulator) to make sure all images are clear and text is legible.
☐ Images are optimized for web
Before uploading images to your site, compress the file size so large image files don’t make your pages “heavy” (heavy pages slow site performance). If you’ve already uploaded large files (100 KB or larger), you can delete them from your media library and upload new ones.
☐ All links work
Click all links to make sure they go to the intended destination. Remember to check buttons, links in the footer, and email addresses that are set as links.
☐ Redirects are ready to go (if replacing an existing site)
If your new website is replacing an old one, existing links and bookmarks to your old site will break when the new site launches. To solve this, it’s important to identify your most important and most-visited pages so you can set redirects from pages on the old site to the new one. Learn how to set redirects for WashU Web Theme sites.
Washington University strives to make our web content accessible for all site visitors, including people who have physical or cognitive impairments and those using assistive technology. We need your help to uphold our pledge to everyone who visits our sites.
☐ Images do not contain text
Text embedded inside of images is unreadable to screen readers, search engines and language translators. See an example of this common accessibility issue.
☐ Alt text and captions are present
Recognize that some visitors to your site will be unable to see images, perhaps because of visual impairment or page-loading issues. With these users in mind, include descriptive alternative text for images. Skip the alt text if the image is decorative rather than informative or if descriptive text would be redundant. Our Adding Images tutorial includes where to add alt text as well as other metadata.
Include captions and/or transcripts. This benefits those with hearing impairments, as well as people who aren’t using speakers or headphones.
Should you hide pages? When perfection is the enemy of good
It can be tempting to wait until everything on your site is perfect before launching it, but remember: You can continue editing your site and adding new pages once it’s live. Sometimes launching a site that’s missing a few planned pages or that needs a better image is preferable to sticking with the status quo – especially if the status quo is an outdated website or no website at all.
Talk to your project team or contact us if you’d like help striking the right balance between “done” and “ready to launch” (of course, a website that’s current is never really done). If you do launch your site with several enhancements pending, make sure you have a plan for completing those updates after the site goes live.