General coding guidelines
The University of Minnesota web template HTML validates using XHTML 1.0 transitional. The XHTML and CSS coding follows standards developed by the W3C and University policy such as Accessibility of Information Technology.
Conversion from HTML to XHTML is easier using tools such as the following:
- Dreamweaver—a free XHTML conversion extension can be downloaded to make the conversion. The latest version of Dreamweaver has this built in, too. Under File > Convert, you can find a variety of conversion options including XHTML 1.0 Transitional.
Semantic markup is HTML that describes the content, rather than the manner, in which the content is presented. It allows the meaning to be delivered to users regardless of the browser they use, so that content can be provided to the widest possible audience. The BBC's Standards and Guidelines can be helpful in setting up guidelines for your unit.
Writing semantic code includes everything from using heading tags properly to naming CSS styles based on content description. For example, instead of naming a style "red_box," use a name that describes what that red box is used for, like "callout."
To continue to use good semantic markup, consider a tool like the Web Standards Advisor (this is not an endorsement). Another free tool is W3C's Semantic Data Extractor. It allows you to view an outline of your page based on your heading tags.
Page titles are used to name the browser window. They also display as the link to your pages in search results. Page titles should clearly refer to the content on the page. Each page should have a unique title. The templates use the following convention (with modifications based on unit structure): "Page Name : Unit Name : University of Minnesota." The period is included to indicate to a screen reader the end of a phrase.
Accessibility note: The page title is the first thing a screen reader user hears when they come to your site. Make sure your pages have unique titles.
Metadata is used to describe the information on your site. It should capture the who, what, when, where, why, and how of your data to enable search engines.
Below are the current metadata attributes included in the template coding. More information about standardized metadata is available from the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative, with specific metadata descriptions available at Dublin Core Metadata Terms.
- "author"—designates the author, typically the University unit publishing the site.
- "content-type"—indicates the type of data sent to the browser. It is used by browsers to know what to do with the data that they receive.
- "description"—describes the contents of the page. Sometimes used as a summary for the page in search engines.
- "keywords"—refers to keywords in the page or related to the page content. Occasionally used by search engines to rank pages in search results.
Note: Use a unique description and unique keywords for each page of a site.
Page body: best practices
Use heading tags appropriately. See Accessibility.
For best practices regarding accessibility, see Web Accessibility Standards.
Label links clearly. For example, a link that goes to a page titled "Resources" should use just the word Resources as the link name.
Label downloads appropriately. Specify the type of file and the file size. For example: Download the Driven to Discover Brand Guidelines (960 K PDF)