Website Standards, Guidelines & Issues

Some of the general guides for the development and management of websites include the following:

Audience Definition
A pre‐requisite of developing a successful website is to understand the audience of the website. The ability to create usable and useful website designs is highly dependent upon the availability of a clear audience definition.

Discussion Groups and Blogs
Where discussion groups, blogs and similar tools are used to invite comments and responses to others’ comments, departments/programs should be mindful of the level of moderation, which must be provided. This is relevant to both the quality of the service, since a non‐moderated forum may justly be criticized as an inadequate means of consultation, and to the legal requirement, to ensure that content is not unlawful.

 MAINTENANCE OF THE WEBSITE

A website can be a valuable and effective tool to achieve a department or programs objectives. It can be a strategic asset that supports key business processes, improvements in efficiency as well as greater staff and customer satisfaction. All departments/programs must pay special attention to the management and maintenance of their websites.

CONTENT MAINTENANCE

Sites lose interest when they do not change. The content needs to be alive, current and accurate. With fresh information, people will have a reason to return to the site time and time again. If the project is evolving and producing new information and materials and new relevant sites are springing up, they should be added. Also, ensure these changes are clearly flagged on the first page of the site. Additionally, old articles, comments and other information should be archived. If visitors are willing to fill in a brief form on the site giving you their email address, the entity can build a mailing list and email them about new material on the site. The entities might want to “think” as if they are doing a complete site redesign every few months, as it not only keeps it fresh, but it also gives you the opportunity to take advantage of newer technology as it comes out.

TECHNICAL MAINTENANCE

In order to stay abreast with ongoing changes in the Internet technology and changing content the entity must stay on top of all technical issues related to a website.

Maintaining Links
Web links break and change, sites move and are withdrawn. A broken or outdated link will not only disappoint a visitor, but will adversely affect the overall impression of the website. Additionally, search engines tend to penalize or de‐list websites in case of persistent broken links. At a minimum, check the site's links every month or two and correct or remove the ones that are no longer working. The department/program should check an external link more than once before deleting it ‐ it may be only temporarily inaccessible if its server is down. The tracking report generated by server software can reveal the location of broken links.

Maintaining Version Control
The following tips would assist in maintaining efficient version control:

  • Keep all versions of your site organized so that you can update files or refer to previous versions efficiently.
  • Maintain the naming and file directory system that you established during the initial development of the site.
  • Continue to back up your files and store them safely.
  • Document your procedures for naming and structuring files so that others can grasp your system easily.

Deleting Orphan Pages

It is convenient to allow obsolete pages to pile up on your server files. However, it is essential to get rid of orphan pages periodically since search engines do not appreciate them – it just magnifies their amount of work.

 Additional Tasks

  • Arrangements should be in place for the subsequent analysis. Where necessary, maintenance of the appropriate standards of performance should include:
  • Assessing standards of performance over a typical low‐end modem connection over an open line and via a typical domestic Internet Service
  • Provider (ISP). This is in order to replicate the access experience of the most access‐challenged of users;
  • Checking by using different browsers and screen resolutions and with
  • features such as scripts and images disabled;
  • Checking by using disabled access evaluation tools;
  • Checking that the information is readable when printed, with both color and monochrome printers including laser, inkjet and dot matrix printers;
  • Maintaining a retention and management process for usage and change logs.

TRACKING SITE ACTIVITY – GOOGLE ANALYTICS

The more you know about user activity at your site, the better prepared you will be to plan future updates. Currently,  the use of Google Analytics is the primary program utilized for tracking site activity.  Pages that are set up in the WCM are coded for the purpose of tracking using Google Analytics. IRT will provide a report on items that are to be tracked or they can assist with setting up a direct tracking access. Tracking reports generated by server software, Google Analytics, can provide the following information.

Number of Visits a Site Receives
This indicates how well advertised a website is and how popular it is among the users.

Page Impressions (Page Views)
Page impression is the number of times a page is requested, including all graphics that might be used to make up that page. Measuring ‘hits’ alone does not give a meaningful analysis of usage ‐ a page with 5 graphic elements will register as 6 hits but only one page impression.

Unique Visits
These are calculated from unique IP addresses and time between requests.

Top Referring Sites
The pages, which users might link from to reach your website, may assist you in refining your advertising strategy and may uncover a new category of users.

 The Order in which Users View the Pages
This can help the entity in assessing their navigation and information design.

Most Frequently Visited Pages
This can show where strategic information would work best.

 Least Frequently Visited Pages
This can help in evaluating whether to continue upkeep or to improve direction to certain pages.

Traffic Analysis
This should be undertaken, focusing on peak times (to assess bandwidth requirements) and dead times (should essential maintenance require the site being down for a short time).

Contact Mark Konrad in Information Resources and Technology for assistance with analyizing what reports will be most beneficial to you.  He can set it up so that you receive your reports on whatever basis you would like to receive them.  Mark Konrad: (916)278-4377, konrad@csus.edu.

WEBSITE REVIEW AND EVALUATION

In order to ensure that a website is of acceptable quality and is conforming to required standards, review and evaluation of the website should be carried out at least once a year.