Web Standards


The Ohio State University Libraries' (OSUL) website is a key communications tool in our Vision to advance student and faculty success, deliver distinctive content, and foster intellectual connections. To comply with the OSUL Web Guiding Principles, the following public website standards have been developed by the OSUL Web Governance Committee and approved by OSUL Administration. These standards, along with the Guiding Principles, will be reviewed on a regular basis for continued relevancy.

Web Standards Checklist for OSUL page owners (Excel file)

 Content Standards


As an organization, we have a need to present a unified face: pages should sound like they come from the same group (OSUL) but with flexibility as needed. The tone that we are looking for is professional, helpful and respectful. When writing for a Web audience, it is helpful to remember the following:

  • Be direct, thorough, and to the point; keep text concise and easy for the reader to scan, calling attention to key information:
    • use short paragraphs & sentences
    • limit the use of adverbs and adjectives
    • text on a page should be able to stand alone because users enter the website from all access points, not necessarily from a home or landing page
    • break up long runs of text by presenting portions of the information in a bulleted list
  • Be factual and accurate;
  • Be knowledgeable, but not complicated:
    • use academic or formal language only where needed to meet the needs of specific content (e.g. policy, academic research results, etc.)
    • Avoid using jargon and acronyms
  • Don't "welcome" readers to the page; get to the content immediately
  • Use hyperlinks to provide additional information or explanation if needed, but don't use a hypertext link if the information can be presented concisely on the page
  • Use bold and italics sparingly
  • Do not underline text, as it implies a hyperlink
  • DO NOT EMPHASIZE TOO MUCH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Relevance is a general measure of how well something is connected to and meets the needs of its goals. When developing your web content, ask yourself: "Is my content relevant to the goals of the site, to the page, to the reader, to the writer?"

  • Title: The page title and/or a section title is likely the first thing that someone will see when landing on your site/page. It should address the question ‘What is this link about?”
  • Accuracy: Write accurately, factually and grammatically. Use a spell-checker and make certain that citations are not amiss.
  • Focus: Stay on your specific topic; keep copy short and direct. The OSUL website is designed around the premise that each topic has a page, separate and unique with its information. If you need more pages, you can either add them, or contact the person who you think is best responsible for such a page.

Tip IconIn “Don’t Make Me Think” Steve Krug suggests writing your copy, going back and removing half the words, and then going back and removing half the words again.

  • Link: Link to your best sources. We need to point to the right information, not necessarily write it. If you are the best source, then we’ll all link to you!
  • Currency & Maintenance: One of the key information literacy criteria for judging the relevance of information on the Web is to determine how current is the information and/or when was it last updated. If the information doesn’t change, that's OK, but you should schedule some time to review the pages that you are responsible for on a regular basis (e.g. monthly, quarterly, but not longer than annually) to make sure the facts are still accurate and relevant, the links still go where you intended, and that you cannot provide the information in a better manner.
  • Audience: While our primary audience may be Ohio State students, faculty, and staff, you need to consider all of the potential audiences and their needs, including: alumni, citizens of Ohio, external researchers, non-English speakers, non-sighted users using alternative browsers, and the general public.

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  • Standard styles and formats, as provided by the CMS, should be used whenever possible to ensure a consistent, user-friendly experience and to comply with ADA and web standards.
  • When possible, avoid using "Click here..." for more information. WC3 alternatives to "click here" tips.

Tip IconExample:

Please contact the University Registrar for access to the following records: Course Bulletins, Enrollment Statistics, and Student Records

instead of

Please contact the University Registrar for access to the following records via these links: Course Bulletins | Enrollment Statistics | Student Records

  • When possible avoid using actual URL as link text.

Tip IconExample:

The Ohio State University General Records Retention Schedule

instead of

The Ohio State University General Records Retention Schedule (http://library.osu.edu/projects-initiatives/osu-records-management/retention-schedules/)

  • Develop go.osu.edu shortened URLs to promote your pages:

Tip IconExample:


instead of


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  • Must follow OSU Brand Guidelines
  • Images
    • PNG should be used for screenshots or any image with mostly solid colors (computer screens, printouts, etc)
    • JPG/JPEG should be used for images and pictures. Quality and/or compression should be balanced with a small file size. File sizes larger than 1 MB are not allowed without an exception approval by AD&S.
    • BMP, TIFF, ICO, GIF, PCX - Should be used as secondary options if JPG or PNG is not viable. These should follow the 1MB upload limit unless the image is being presented as the entirety of the content on a page (i.e. an exhibit page).
  • Videos
    • Unless public access needs to be restricted, videos for OSU Libraries websites should be placed on the Libraries' YouTube channel.  Contact OSUL Communications for access to this channel.
    • For videos with limited access, contact OSUL Communications.

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 Technical Standards

 Required Guidelines

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 Required Elements & Navigation

Consistent and stable website design and navigation are meant to facilitate the user’s interaction with the website.

The following items are provided by the Content Management System (CMS) and need to be implemented in all pages with the potential exception of third-party systems, such as (but not limited to): blogs, ILLiad, Online Journals List and the WebPac.

  • OSU Nav Bar: The OSU Navigation Bar contains navigational elements that belong on every page of the university.
  • OSUL Header: This contains the OSUL Graphic, which serves as a link to the OSUL Home page.
  • OSUL Nav Bar: This consists of Level 1 (Home, Find, Help, News & Events, Projects & Initiatives, About Us and My Account) and Level 2 (the sub-navigation options from Level 1) website navigation and the web site search apparatus.
  • Contact: This section includes primary contact information for the department, location, collection or service.
  • Footer: This provides general contact information for OSU Libraries and its webmaster (Communications) as well as claim of copyright.

For non-CMS and third-party web interfaces, the responsible unit will need to work closely with the OSUL AD&S team to most effectively incorporate as many common elements as possible and practical.

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 File Usage

For consistency in user experience and expectations, we need to decide how to best present the information to our users.

  • Content Management System (CMS) Page Type: First and foremost, use the correct CMS page type (e.g. Subjects vs. Collections vs. Locations) for the type of information you are providing
  • Document Type Hierarchy: When determining the most effective way of presenting information, consider the following:
    1. Web page - This is preferred for presenting information, unless the nature of the information is better served by one of the options below.
    2. PDF - PDF is preferable to native format as it is more broadly usable
    3. Native Format - If absolutely necessary (e.g. PowerPoint that needs to be viewed as a presentation, moving image, audio files, et. al.) provide the file in native format.
  • Forms Hierarchy: OSUL has the following preferences for implementing and delivering forms:
    1. Web Form
    2. Interactive PDF
    3. Static PDF
    4. Word/Excel/other Native Format
  • Survey Instrument Hierarchy: OSUL has the following preferences for implementing and delivering forms:
    1. Cloud-based service (e.g. SurveyMonkey and Treejack)
    2. Web Form
    3. Interactive PDF
    4. Static PDF
    5. Word/Excel/other Native Format

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All web sites and web site applications that lie outside the OSU Libraries CMS will be submitted to AD&S for a security audit prior to publication on the web. This is not necessary for minor content updates to existing sites, however any coding (PHP, JavaScript, PERL, etc.) additions must be submitted to AD&S for review.

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AD&S will collect statistics of web site page usage on a regular basis to assist page owners in determining how well their pages are used, and to determine whether the pages should be maintained, improved or retired.

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  • Each page has an owner that may be the content author or their supervisor.
  • Content authors should check to make sure page and/or content does not already exist on the OSUL website
  • Each owner should schedule some time to review the pages that they are responsible for on a regular basis (e.g. monthly, quarterly, but not longer than annually) to make sure the facts and links are still accurate and relevant.
  • Supervisors should review pages in their areas for consistency.

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  • Provide routine reports (e.g. page ownership and usage statistics) to the WGC
  • Provide routine usage statistics to page owners

 Web Governance

  • will review proposals for and recommend changes to site structure as appropriate
  • will mediate issues brought before it under the Standards Exceptions Process
  • will review these Standards for relevancy on a regular basis

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 Appendix: Standards Exceptions Process

All library personnel should feel free to approach any member of the Web Governance Committee (WGC) with any requests to clarify the Website Guiding Principles and Standards. Any requests for an exception to the Principles and Standards should be made via the OSUL Project Hub (General IT Support) and include a description of the variance, time frame needed for a decision, and justification for the exception, including any potential impact on other library services or pages. WGC will discuss the proposed variance and may need to consult with the requester or other affected individuals/groups before informing the requester if an exception is granted.

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These Web Standards are reviewed annually by the Web Governance Committee.
Effective: November 26, 2013
Revised: December 1, 2014