Content Design Principles

Designing content is more than just putting stuff online

Good content design allows people to do or find out what they need from the university simply and quickly. It is based on research on user behavior, analytics and feedback.

Sometimes we publish content that is what we want to say, not what a user actually needs to know. This makes our site difficult to understand and use.

In the end, this leaves everybody (students, staff, faculty, visitors, and parents) frustrated - nobody can find what they need to know or do.

We can avoid this bad situation by only publishing what users actually need, and making decisions based on research, feedback and testing.

Start with user needs

A user need is something somebody (a student, colleague, or parent) needs to find out or do. Some examples include:

  • Apply for admission
  • Find out the first day of class
  • Get directions to campus
  • Purchase a parking permit
  • Choose which classes to take next semester
  • Find something to do on Friday night
  • Make a donation

There are many ways to present information that meets users' needs. You'll have to think carefully and decide what is best.

Before you publish anything on the website, know what your users actually need, and design your content around them.

Content strategy and design

Depending on what your user needs are, you may need to

  • publish less than you thought you would
  • split content into smaller pieces
  • change the format of content
  • remove content
  • ask Web Services for help deciding the best way to present your content
  • publish your content elsewhere, like Facebook

You'll need to think about all of this before you edit or create a new page on the site. You'll also need to think about how long your content should be posted, if it will need to be updated or removed.

If you need help with any of this, contact Web Services for advice.

Designing by writing good content

Great content is clear, in plain English, and optimized for the web. This helps people find and understand the information they need quickly and easily. This guidance is based on research about how people use the internet.

We must write so our site is accessible to anyone who is interested enough to look. Our users may have different reading abilities or be looking at the site on a range of devices. Make sure you are creating accessible content before you start.

Avoid duplication

Content design means making sure information can be found easily on a site with thousands of pages.

Duplicate content produces bad search results, confuses users, and damages our credibility. People call the Campus Service Center or ask their friends because they aren't sure they have the right information.

Whenever possible, link to where content already exists, or clip the content from another site.

Content maintenance

We must keep the website accurate, relevant and up-to-date for users and search engines. When content is no longer accurate or useful, it should be removed.

Simple, clear, fast

Using these content design principles means we do the hard work for the user. But the reward is a site that is simple, clear and fast for everybody.