Follow these recommendations to build websites that are accessible and uncluttered, and that help you reach your target audience effectively.

Navigation

Menus form the core of any website. Your site's navigation will either help your users find the information they're looking for, or it will make them hopelessly lost. Here are some tips for creating effective site navigation in Drupal.

  • Shorten your links - Try to limit your menu links to one or two words. Avoid the inclusion of articles, prepositions or non-essential information ( for example, "The Office of XYZ" could simply be "XYZ").
  • Limit the choices - Try to have fewer than seven links in any one menu. Long lists become daunting and slow down users.
  • Don't wrap horizontal menus - Horizontal menus should never wrap onto more than one line. Use dropdowns or nested links to avoid multi-line top navigation. Double-row navigation will not only be much less usable and scannable, it will also make your site ugly.

Highlights

Highlights can be a great way to call attention to timely and important information on your website. We have a standard highlight feature for Drupal that even helps you easily add them to your page. But highlights are often abused. Follow these recommendations and your users will thank you.

  • Stick to three highlights or less - Highlights are supposed to grab attention. But if you use too many, suddenly your entire site will be competing for your users' attention. Every highlight you add weakens the effectiveness of the others, and also competes with your navigation.
  • Don't use highlights as navigation - highlights should call attention to important or timely information, not substitute for navigation. Highlights should rotate and change over time. Use them strategically to defend the integrity of your existing navigation. Do your constituents want to add an event or a strategic plan to the home page? Highlights offer a way to do that.
  • Use a consistent design style for multiple highlights - We offer Photoshop templates with recommended highlight styling. Try to design them clean and uncluttered, just as you aim to do for your page as a whole. Keep them simple.

Use this handy Photoshop template to create a set of highlight graphics that work well together.

Feature Stories

The feature rotator is a standard web tool for adding imagery, stories and messaging to your home page or key landing page. They also provide a more elegant way to solve the nasty photo collage banner that ruled the higher ed web in days of yore when we had to cram a photo from every department and program into our hero images. But while they can be an effective way to tell your unit's story, they're often abused.

  • Never overlay text on your photos - This is the most abused rule. It's so tempting to turn your the feature story photo space into a giant banner ad. But the problem is, ads are ugly. Use the title and description fields instead, and focus on acquiring the best images you can find. And there's another big reason not to add text to your images: it's not accessible for many users. A picture's already worth a thousand words...why add more?
  • Don't use feature stories as highlights - Feature stories are a great way to tell the story of your program. But often you'll see them used to highlight an upcoming event or promoting new content you've added to your site. This type of content becomes dated quickly. And it's often hard to find good artwork for upcoming events or for newly added web pages, which leads to the use of sub-par imagery.
  • Develop a plan for maintaining your feature stories - Rotating images can get old quickly. The mere fact that they rotate implies that you're planning to update them, and when you don't, your site begins to feel stale. Sometimes a single static image is all that you need. But if you do want to use rotating images, write out a plan for how often you'll update them. It doesn't matter if it's weekly, quarterly or yearly as long as you're somewhat consistent and you keep the quality to the same high standard. A plan will also help you define and defend this space against abuse by your constituents.

Page Content

Your site's basic text content is still the heart of your website. Whether it's one word, a paragraph or a lengthy epistle, your text is the reason your site exists, yet website builders often spend many more hours worrying about template designs, content management systems, video and imagery than they do this core and most important component of your site. Here are a few tips for keeping your content in shape.

  • Break up long blocks of text with headings - Nothing is more daunting than a long block of text. Web users like to scan, and headings help them do that. Headings are also great for search engine optimization (SEO). 
  • Add images to lonely content - We've all created pages out of necessity that only have a few links or one small block of text. There's no reason to stop using imagery after you leave the home page or landing pages of your site. For interior pages, select images that help tell the users what they'll find on this page or section, or that embody the spirit of your marketing messages.
  • Write for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) - Users often complain that their page isn't returned by a web search using certain search terms when closer inspection reveals that none of those terms are actually used on the page in question. Using those terms in both the body copy and in the headings, especially the all-important page title, is a great way to improve your site's SEO.