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Web Style Guide

Site definition and planning

This initial stage is where you define your goals and objectives for the Web site and begin to collect and analyze the information you'll need to justify the budget and resources required. This is also the time to define the scope of the site content, the interactive functionality and technology support required, and the depth and breadth of information resources that you will need to fill out the site and meet your reader's expectations. If you are contracting out the production of the Web site, you will also need to interview and select a site design firm. Ideally, your site designers should be involved as soon as possible in the planning discussions.

Site production checklist

Not every site will require consideration of every item below. Developers within corporations or other large enterprises can often count on substantial in-house technology support when creating new Web sites. If you are on your own as an individual or small business, you may need to contract with various technology and design vendors to assemble everything you'll need to create a substantial content site or small e-commerce site.


  • Will your site production team be composed of in-house people, outside contractors, or a mix of the two?
  • Who will manage the process?
  • Who are your primary content experts?
  • Who will be the liaison to any outside contractors?
  • Who will function long-term as the Webmaster or senior site editor?


  • What browsers and operating systems should your site support?
    • Windows, Macintosh, UNIX, Linux
    • Netscape Navigator, Internet Explorer; minimum version supported
  • Network bandwidth of average site visitors
    • Internal audience or largely external audience?
    • Ethernet or high-speed connections typical of corporate offices
    • ISDN, or DSL medium-speed connections typical of suburban homes
    • Modem connections for rural, international, or poorer audiences
  • Dynamic HTML (HyperText Markup Language) and advanced features?
    • JavaScript or vbscript required
    • Java applets required
    • Style sheets required
    • Third-party browser plug-ins required
    • Special features of the UNIX or NT server environments required
    • Special security or confidentiality features required
  • How will readers reach the support personnel?
    • Email messages from readers
    • Chat rooms, forums, help desks, or phone support
  • Database support?
    • User log-ins required to enter any site areas?
    • Questionnaires required?
    • Search and retrieval from databases needed?
  • Audiovisual content
    • Video or audio productions?

Web server support

  • In-house Web server or outsourced to Internet Service Provider (ISP)?
    • Unique domain names available (multihoming)
    • Disk space or site traffic limitations or extra costs
    • Adequate capacity to meet site traffic demands?
    • Twenty-four-hour, seven-days-a-week support and maintenance?
    • Statistics on users and site traffic?
    • Server log analysis: in-house or outsourced?
    • Search engine suitable for your content?
    • CGI (Common Gateway Interface), programming, and database middleware support available?
    • Database support or coordination with in-house staff?


  • Salaries and benefits for short-term development staff and long-term editorial and support staff
  • Hardware and software for in-house development team members
  • Staff training in Web use, database, Web marketing, and Web design
  • Outsourcing fees
    • Site design and development
    • Technical consulting
    • Database development
    • Site marketing
  • Ongoing personnel support for site
    • Site editor or Webmaster
  • Ongoing server and technical support
  • Database maintenance and support
  • New content development and updating

Appoint a site editor

A site that is "everyone's responsibility" can quickly become an orphan. A maintenance plan should specify who is responsible for the content of each page in the site. To maintain consistent editorial, graphic design, and management policies you'll also need one person to act as the editor of the overall Web site. The site editor's duties will vary according to how you choose to maintain your site. Some editors do all the work of maintaining site content, relieving their coworkers of the need to deal directly with Web page editing. Other editors coordinate and edit the work of many contributors who work directly on the site pages. If multiple people contribute to site maintenance, the site editor may choose to edit pages after they are created and posted to avoid becoming a bottleneck in the communications process. However, high-profile public pages or pages that contain very important content should be vetted by the editor before public posting.

In addition to ensuring editorial quality, a site editor must also ensure that the content of the site reflects the policies of the enterprise, is consistent with local appropriate use policies, and does not contain material that violates copyright laws. Many people who post pictures, cartoons, music files, or written material copied from other sites on their own sites do not understand copyrights and the legal risks in using copyrighted materials inappropriately. A site editor is often an institution's first line of defense against an expensive lawsuit over the misuse of protected material.