General page style
Keep it brief
Break text down into smaller chunks and key points and simple, snappy sentences.
Keep paragraphs short, and try to limit the subject matter to one main idea.
Use lists - bulleted or numbered
You can use lists more than in print. Online readers are helped by structured, concise points.
Summarise and if needed use a hyperlink to a further page of more detailed information.
More detailed help on types of lists is given below.
The heading is a key signpost to users. Along with the text in navigation or crumbtrail fields, it is quickly scanned to reassure a visitor that they are on the right page.
A witty, clever or cryptic heading will slow readers down. People may even abandon the page if it's not clear what it's about. Using a question as a heading suggests uncertainty - so it's better to use a positive phrase or statement.
Note that the heading will also be identical to the:
- navigation text
- crumbtrail text
- HTML page title (metadata)
So in choosing the wording of a heading, make sure it is:
Aim to use no more than 35 characters in a heading (including spaces) to keep to one line. If it is essential to exceed this, bear in mind that the Web Team will have to cut the length displayed in the navigation - even if you have agreed the wording elsewhere.
If you have a lot of content, it may be best split across several pages. Ideally each page should be less than two or three screens long when viewed at the default text size on a typical monitor. Obviously this will vary with user settings, but about 200-300 words per page would be a good target length. The upper limit should be 500-600 words if possible.
Each page should have a clear subject and relationship with the other pages in the section. Assemble them logically like a "family tree". The top-most page is the "landing page", with very little content - just links to each of the pages at the next level down with perhaps a brief description. Lower-level pages should contain more detail.
Note that content should only appear once anywhere on the NERC website. Do not repeat text from elsewhere just because it might be relevant. Instead use hyperlinks to point to related pages.
If you do need to create a long page, ensure that it is broken down with a clear structure - follow the same sort of "family tree" hierarchy as for groups of pages. Use headings and subheadings sequentially (see "Format" below). A bulleted list at the top of the page using the same text as the headings/subheadings should be set up as bookmark hyperlinks.
If writing in MS Word, make sure the page title has a format of "Heading 1", that the secondary heading is "Heading 2", and any sub-headings are "Heading 3". All other text should be "Normal".
The hierarchy of headings is very important - you can only drop down by one order of heading, but not two. For example, a section under a Heading 1 cannot be followed by a section under a Heading 3. It breaks accessibility rules, so must be avoided. You can go up the hierarchy by multiple levels.
We use three styles depending on the circumstances.
- A simple list with a heading doesn't need punctuation and can start with an initial capital:
What to do
- A half-sentence statement can be followed by a colon, short bullets, lower case on initial word and no punctuation except a full stop at the end:
Before giving a talk you need to:
- plan it carefully
- find some visual aids
- practise in front of an audience.
- Longer bullets may include more than one sentence. In this case, avoid a half sentence statement, and punctuate the bullets normally:
There are several things to do before you give a presentation.
- Plan it carefully. Make sure you know what your audience expects and how long you should be speaking.
- Find some visual aids to make the talk more engaging.
- If possible you should practise the talk in front of an audience, preferably someone similar to the real audience.
List type 2 will be the most commonly used format.