Content Management System

Website Development Do's and Don'ts

Creating the Best Browsing Experience

The importance of maintaining consistency throughout a series of websites is significant in increasing user-friendliness.  Consistency allows content to be found easily and affords the reader a certain level of comfort in knowing he/she will not get lost in a sea of useless pages.

We leave much of the elements of setting up your pages to you, but there are a number of key elements that should remain consistent.

Basic Points to Remember

  • People are coming to your website to find information, either because they know or they think they will be able to find it there.
  • The information they are looking for is generally going to be found in your written word. The content that you create is the most important information on your website.
  • Just because you get bored with something on your website, it doesn't mean that the rest of the world is bored with it as well. Remember, you look at your website much more often than anybody else. The rest of the world, however, is focused on their needs. Don't kill yourself to create new art and graphics unless it is really going to make a difference.
  • Organize your content "vertically" rather than "horizontally". That is, present your visitors with a simple, straightforward path to the information they are looking for rather than trying to place everything "one click away".

Accessibility - Section 508 Compliance

  • Section 508 compliance refers to the specific amendment of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, passed by congress in 1997. It requires federal agencies and agencies that receive federal funding, such as UCR, to make their electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities. Violations of these accessibility guidelines could result in the university losing its federal funding and/or being subjected to lawsuits.
  • It is imperative that Web managers are aware of Section 508 and that the sites that they are responsible for abide by these guidelines.
  • The new UCR website and OmniUpdate Content Management System is optimized in such a way as to ensure compliance with section 508. Areas of emphasis include:
    • Use of "Alt tags" for all graphics and images.
    • Elimination of "pull-down menus".
    • Use of alternate text or subtitles on all video and audio presentations.
  • For more information on accessibility, review the World Wide Web Consortium's (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

Basic Formatting Tips

Abbreviations and Acronyms
  • You may use abbreviations that are common in standard English.
    For example, site names (e.g., St. Louis), or names of states (use postal abbreviations, e.g. "CA" for California). Avoid using non-standard or UCR-specific abbreviations.
  • Acronyms for facilities are not acceptable on first mentions.
    They may be used on subsequent mentions. For example: "The College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (CHASS) is the largest college at UCR. CHASS oversees..."
Dates and Times
  • The proper format is "a.m." and "p.m.", not capitalized and with periods. Days of the week and months of the year should be spelled out. 12 noon and 12 midnight should be noted as such, not 12 a.m. or 12 p.m.
  • Times should be two digits, unless they are some point other than the top of the hour. I.e., 11 a.m., not 11:00 a.m.
  • In keeping with AP style, numbers lower than 10 should be spelled out. All two-digit or greater numbers should be presented numerically.
  • Headlines should be up style, e.g. UCR Revamps Website. Capitalization of all words, except for internal articles, prepositions, conjunctions and forms of to be (e.g. "is"). In general, when using the content management system, any headers H1 through H4 should be in up-style. H5 and below should be in down style.
  • Headlines should be compelling, simple and straightforward.
  • Headline tags should not be used to increase the size of the text in a page.
  • Do not fall into the trap of trying to be clever.
Publication Titles
  • Titles of publications should be italicized. This is different than the print standard. For example:
    The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
    The Supremes' Greatest Hits by Michael G. Trachtman
    Gone With the Wind


  • Remember your content is the most important thing.
    Important content should be at the beginning of a page. Don't fill up a page with useless filler. Inform the reader quickly what they need to know.
  • Who is your audience?
    This should be the first question you answer before you begin creating content. You are writing to give the audience the information they want or need, not to show off your vast knowledge of the subject matter at hand. Knowing your audience will be important in identifying keywords you can use.
  • Keep it simple!
    The median reading level for Americans is at the 8th grade. While this site is browsed by academics and students, we are also visited by readers who are not native speakers, and by community members. Keeping the content in layman's terms also makes the page easier to scan, enhancing the experience of the reader.


  • Avoid using PDF's as a method for putting up content. If something is worthy of being put on the Web, it is worthy of being put up in HTML. PDF's are for printing and do not translate well to on-screen viewing.
  • PDF's are acceptable as support documentation, such as flyers, and for forms.
  • If you must attach a form or document, we recommend putting it up as a PDF. Avoid using Microsoft Word documents online as they are not secure.
  • Instead of using PDFs, use HTML, which creates a smoother browsing experience. It is easier for the reader and doesn't force them to open Adobe reader, which is harder for older computers and can slow down even the fastest computers.


  • Visitors don't visit your page to see cool graphics (generally)
  • Graphics that detract from the content of the page are not recommended.
  • Copy and art should complement each other, not compete for the viewer's eye.


  • Your links should be descriptive.
    When you create a link on your page, you should always try to make the link a call to action that explains what will happen when it is selected. For example, instead of just saying "Click here", write "Read more about this program"
  • Avoid "Click Here"
    Just don't do it. There is never a good time to simply type "click here" It is not visitor friendly and sometimes makes a page not meet accessibility standards.
  • Links should not pop-up new windows
    Pages should open in the same window/tab. If the visitor wishes to open the page in a new window, they can do so manually. Don't make their decisions for them.


  • The navigation menu appears on the left side of the screen. This is a design element of the new UCR Web brand.
  • The ideal number of items to appear in the left hand navigation is seven, with a maximum of eight. This is to ensure that the bottom menu items are not hidden from the visitor by being too far down the page.
  • Each item in the navigation menu will have links to sub-menus that become visible when the visitor selects the top level pages.
  • Content should be organized in such a fashion that items appear only once in the sub-menu, even if that subject matter applies to more than one section.
    For example: Let's say you have a page about research with content that applies to both graduate students and faculty. Despite the fact that the page may apply to both audiences, the research page can only appear in the menu in one place, either under graduate students, faculty, or somewhere else. If this content is important, you should link to it from within your content on the page.
  • Navigation menu items should be brief, straightforward descriptions of the content that will be found there. Avoid being too clever or catchy.
  • When used, the navigation descriptive terms that appear under menu items can be used to further clarify what will be found under a certain link.
  • Pages that are listed in your navigation must be within your website. The visitor does not expect to be transported to another website from your navigation menu.
  • Pull-down or pop-up menus are not considered user friendly, can often violate accessibility guidelines and are therefore not permitted.


  • Bulleted lists enhance the experience of the reader
  • Large blocks of text are not only aesthetically unpleasing, but Web readers generally scan for information instead of reading every word. Use shorter sentences; break up paragraphs, and bulleted lists. Bulleted lists are a great way to:
    • Make content easy to scan.
    • Make the reader feel like they are doing less work.
    • Bring important information to the forefront.
    • Make your page more aesthetically pleasing.

Traps to Avoid

  • Poorly organized content where important information is buried under less important information
  • Overuse of photos, videos or graphics that distract from your message.
  • Too many links to sites outside your site.
  • Blurry, out of focus or low resolution photos.
  • Identifying individuals in the text by their last name, rather than their full name.
  • Overuse of honorifics such as doctor or professor. These can be used on the first mention, but do not need to be carried throughout the page, unless they are necessary to allow the reader to differentiate between two different individuals.

More Information

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900 University Ave.
Riverside, CA 92521
Tel: (951) 827-1012

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Content Management System Support
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Tel: (951) 827-4741
E-mail: bearhelp@ucr.edu