Nowadays it is easy for everyone to publish to a world-wide audience. Blogs, wikis and simple drag and drop website creators enable even the youngest students to have a voice online. This is a blessing and a curse!
When it comes to web content, students need to understand both sides of the coin – how to critically analyse and identify quality content, and also how to create and publish quality content. In addition, teachers are often encouraged to build a web presence – for professional development, as a means of communication with parents and community, or to share resources. Creating and publishing quality web content requires skills that don’t necessarily come naturally, and are not part of teacher training! Therefore this blog post aims to give a very simple introduction to basic tips and strategies for creating web content that is useable and accessible.
cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Paul Veugen
Good design, driven by a clear purpose is key in successful web publishing. Design extends beyond visual design (although this is very important) and includes page layout, text design and accessibility (including navigation).
Web content that adheres to the elements of graphic design will always be more visually appealing and thus more likely to encourage users to spend more time on your site. This handy poster outlines the main principles of visual design (and you can download your own pdf or .eps copy free from the friendly designers at PaperLeaf.
Page Layout and Text Design
Page layout and text design work hand in hand. A clear page layout, with plenty of white space and well spaced text will enable users to find what they want quickly. Your most important information should be clearly visible and easily accessible. Any inclusion on a page should serve a purpose; in web design, as in fashion, it makes sense to follow Coco Chanel’s advice:
“Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.”
Users want to access your content to find information, to solve a problem or to connect with others. Anything that does not enhance or enable these actions is unnecessary and may even detract. This could be as simple as using too many fonts which confuses the reader.
A nice, simple article for further reading is Good Web Design is all About the User.
Accessibility is very important for all web content. It is the inclusive practice of making websites usable by people of all abilities and disabilities, as well as ensuring your web content renders correctly across all browsers and devices. This includes making sure images have text equivalents so that people using text to speech readers know about the images, as well as having meaningfully named and highlighted links, and the ability to enlarge font sizes for readability. All of these considerations are important to enable access for all users. More information on accessibility is available on the World Wide Web Consortium pages.
This video is also a great summary:
Navigation is how users find your all important content. Poor site design and navigation will frustrate users. If users cannot find the page they are searching for, or get ‘lost’ and are unable to return easily to the home page, they may well never return. Link titles should be brief, but descriptive, and take users where they expect to go. If a page does not contain the information that should logically be on that page, many people will just stop searching.
This terrific short video outlines key tips for effective navigation. Essentially, navigation should be:
- future proof and
- compatible across devices and browsers
Of course, terrific design will only take you so far – users are accessing your site for the content. Janice (Ginny) Redish is a world renowned expert on writing content for the web. She sees communications on the web as a conversation – between the publisher and the user. Using this conversation analogy, the users strike up a conversation with you each time they come across your content. How do you communicate with them? Obviously in order to have a quality conversation, you need to know the who you are speaking with, and this is where knowing your audience is vital. Is your audience young or old? Are they technical, or are they more likely to be new to technology? What have they come to your site to obtain?
Meeting user’s needs is the number one goal, and the way you communicate your content is vitally important in this exchange. If the content is too complex, buried deeply within the site or is simply boring, users will quickly move on. Redish suggests using short, simple words wherever possible (readers are busy), keeping the tone ‘active’ (by using verbs) and conversational. Redish’s book, Letting Go of the Words, is a must read for anyone publishing to the web and wanting to improve their content. For employees of Brisbane Catholic Education, this title may be borrowed from the ResourceLink library. Some of her presentations are available on Slideshare.
Copyright and Creative Commons
When you publish online, you are publishing to a world wide audience. Even if what you are publishing may be for educational purposes, you still need to be aware of copyright. Fortunately the number of images licenced under Creative Commons is growing exponentially, and it is also much easier in this digital age to contact owners of images to ask permission to use them. For example, the Principles of Design poster earlier in this post was not licenced under Creative Commons, but a quick message on Facebook requesting usage was responded to in a matter of days.
When using Creative Commons images, be sure to attribute the images correctly. It is best practice to place the attribution on the image or very close to it, so that users can immediately see how the image is licenced. You can find more easy to understand information about Copyright and Creative Commons on the ResourceLink wiki Copyright and Copyleft. You can also read how to attribute correctly on the Creative Commons website.
Sometimes, as in the case of YouTube videos and the infographic at the end of this post, an embed code is offered for those who wish to use the content on their own page. An embed code is like a more complex hyperlink – the content remains on the content-owner’s page, yet is also embedded and shows on your own site. Using embedded videos and graphics does not breach copyright, as the content is still residing on the owner’s site, and the code simply links to it. Embed codes are particularly useful when publishing to Learning Management Systems.
Creating web content is easy and fun. With planning and forethought, your web content can be highly useful, attractive and effective. The infographic below sums up everything you need to know.
Have fun creating!
Source: What Makes Someone Leave A Website?