User Needs and Content Criteria
Before you publish anything on the website, consider how it meets a user need and make sure it meets content criteria.
Deciding what to publish
Before you publish anything on csumb.edu, you should ask:
- does it meet the content criteria?
- does it already exist somewhere else on csumb.edu?
- is there a clear user need for it?
- what is the best way to present the content?
- is it accessible?
- is there a plan for its entire lifecycle?
All content should:
- meet ADA 508 standards for accessibility
- follow best practices for writing on the web
- documents like PDFs and Microsoft Word files should be avoided
- meet a user need
- follow university branding and style guidelines
- be accurate and up to date
- use open file formats
What are user needs?
User needs are the questions or goals people have when they come to our website. Finding directions to campus or applying for a job are examples of valid user needs.
A user might be a parent, a high school or community college student thinking about attending CSUMB, a current student, a staff or faculty colleague, or a member of the general public.
Every piece of content on the website should meet a valid user need. Otherwise, we are just talking to thin air, or worse, making things users actually need harder to find. We must be strict and honest with ourselves when defining user needs.
Defining user needs
You should be able to prove a user need exists with evidence. Good evidence might include:
- Web analytics that show this content is already being accessed.
- Search logs that show people are expressing a need for something by searching for it on the site.
- Phone calls, emails, or walk-ins. If people are asking via these channels, it probably should be covered on the web.
- Research. Surveys, focus groups or interviews with actual users can help you understand and validate user needs. Contact Web Services for assistance - we have a staff member dedicated to researching and understanding user needs.
Be honest with yourself
We must always consider the need from the user's point of view.
We often fail when we think only of what we want to tell them. Be careful if you start out with a solution in mind, or content you just want to publish. The assumptions we make in these scenarios are often wrong.
Be open to finding the best solution to meet each actual need.
Always ask yourself, "Why does someone need to know this?"
Always think about how your content might help someone take action.
The university catalog is the official and only source for some information. If you want to include it in your website, we suggest linking or embedding catalog pages in your site. This ensures that as the catalog changes, your site is always up-to-date and students aren't confused about differing information appearing on department sites versus catalog.
Do not publish the following in your department site:
- Major or academic program requirements, including pathways and lists of required courses.
- Required courses to meet a GE or university requirement.
- Information on tuition or financial aid.
- Campus policies or procedures already in catalog.