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Webmaster's Office

Web Publishing

HTML Versions

When developing your Web site, it is extremely important to respect the currently accepted standards that have been defined by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). Use the different validation tools and test your site with different browser (IE, Firefox, Opera, Safari).

XHTML Standards

HTML pages on the USU domain should conform to the XHTML 1.0 Transitional standard. There are many benefits to using this standard, the main one being that all newer browser versions are being written to this standard, which ensure a longer life for any pages written compliant to XHTML. A few rules to keep in mind to validate with this standard:

  • Every tags must be closed by including a space before the trailing / and > of empty elements like <br />, <hr /> and <img src="welcome.jpg" alt="Welcome" />
  • .
  • All tags and their attributes should be writen in lowercase.
  • All attributes within tags must be enclosed by quotation marks.

Use CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) to simplify your site

If you keep your pages as simple as possible in terms of coding and save presentation aspects into a CSS file, you can develop a hierarchy of external stylesheets for your site that allows advanced style definitions only for compliant browsers. Older or non-compliant browser will display the page adequately.

Replace table-based layout with CSS layout

Web sites written without tables can provide a lot of flexibility in design, and developers don't have to touch HTML web pages to change the look and feel.

Accessibility Coding

As a public university, we are obligated to make our web site accessible. It is important to remember that some of our visitors will be individuals with disabilities. Several factors must be considered while developing your pages to ensure that all users are able to obtain the information they are trying to access on the site.

  1. Include the ALT-attribute for all images, image maps and buttons. The text contained in the ALT-attribute should briefly describe the image.
  2. If your site uses applets, include a description of the function performed by the applets.
  3. Avoid using pop-up window. A blind user may not be able to recognize that a new window has opened.
  4. Avoid using various colors to emphasize information on your page or make sure that color is not the only element being used to do this as it may be lost to users with disabilities.
  5. Ensure that the elements that require user interaction on your page are accessible from multiple devices linked to the user's computer. For example form elements should be accessible using the mouse or the keyboard.
  6. Use testing tools to determine how Browsers designed for people with disabilities will display your Web pages. A good tool for this can be found at: http://wave.webaim.org/.
  7. As much as possible, provide text transcripts of audio files as well as descriptions of video that are used on your site.
  8. Make sure your HTML code "validates" based on W3C specifications (See validators)

To learn more about accessibility and web publishing, visit http://www.webaim.org/

PDF documents and accessibility

Portable Document Format (PDF) is a file format developed by Adobe® Systems. PDF allows us to send or print documents with their original formatting. In order to read PDF files, the user must have Adobe® Acrobat® Reader®, a free application distributed by Adobe Systems.

PDF have become very popular online but this raises concerns about accessibility, especially for users of screen readers. PDF used online to provide a printed version of a web page and keep good formatting are not the main concern. But PDF tend to be overused online, to the point where they are used to replace the entire HTML document. In this case, we need to make sure the PDF are tagged to meet accessibility standard.

Adobe provides accessibility support on its website at:
Adobe has developed two training documents: How to Create Accessible Adobe PDF Files and Advanced Techniques for Creating Accessible Adobe PDF Files.

You can also learn how to create accessible PDF at:

As a general rule, we recommend that PDF documents should be accompanied by universally accessible documents, such as HTML pages (compliant with web accessibility standard).

Browser Support

Test your site in different browsers. Browsers don't always display pages the same way. A minimum test should be done using Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Opera on PC, and Safari for Mac.

Screen Resolution

We recommend that you design your page using a screen resolution of 800 X 600.

Optimize your content for search engines

The two major categories of search engines are directories and indexing/crawlers.

  1. Directories: Search Engine directories rely on the information you send them to stay up-to-date.
  2. Indexing/Crawlers: Search Engine use automatic "Robots" that index all the pages and folders that are accessible on the web server. You can prevent these Robots from indexing pages.
  3. Strategic Keywords: It is important to determine a list of strategic words that you think are relevant to the content of your site.
  4. Keyword positioning: The placement of your keyword is very important. The most important location is in the <TITLE> tag of your HTML page.
  5. <META> Tags: <META> tags should be placed within the <HEAD> tags of your HTML document.

Frames: To use or not to use?

The USU web guidelines recommend against the usage of framed web sites. Avoid using frames. Frames can cause accessibility issues.

Allow your users to go back to your homepage and the USU homepage

The USU HOME link should be included at the top level of your site. Subordinate pages should link back to your top level. The template header provides a link to the main USU homepage on the logo and in the "help" navigation.


Verdana is extremely readable on the web. Helvetica and Arial also work well. Please be sure to choose text colors that show up well with the page"s background color.