Your website is one of the most public-facing communication channels and a primary way people will come to learn about your unit. Below are some requirements and best practices to follow that will set your website up for success.
Tailoring Web Content
The university recommends using Web Press, the university's content management system, to develop and maintain websites so that you can easily share content with and from other university sites. Websites within Web Press are built in the university template. Complete the Web Press site request form to obtain a new site or change developers.
If you choose not to host your site within Web Press, your site must adhere to the Web Policy and incorporate elements including the standard header and footer. Style guidelines promote consistency among official Missouri State websites, which help our users find what they need and feel more confident that the information they find is valid and correct.
You may choose to have your university website set as a subfolder or a subdomain of missouristate.edu. For instance, your website could be named missouristate.edu/web or web.missouristate.edu. We advise units to set their domains up as folders unless there is a specific reason to establish the site as a subdomain.
Official websites must be hosted in the university’s official domain: missouristate.edu. Missouri State will not host outside domains, such as those ending in .com or .org, without an approved exemption.
Knowing your existing content helps you decide how to best display that information. Deciding how your content will appear to your reader is the next step in the development process. Here are a few steps to guide your content organization process:
- Build an outline or flowchart of how your information will be displayed.
- Put information with less priority on lower level pages.
- Group your information into categories that are easily understandable to your audience.
When your audience goes to your site for information, they shouldn't have to scour your site to find it. Your page organization should be as planned from the perspective of your selected audience and displayed in an equally thoughtful manner.
Web page titles
Choose a concise and descriptive title that clearly explains what the content on the web page is about. For instance, rather than naming a page “Websites” consider “Best practices for websites” which is short yet informative.
When you title your page, we strongly suggest changing the default numerical file name that displays in the web address to coincide with the page title. For instance, instead of missouristate.edu/web/12345.htm update it to missouristate.edu/web/best-practices.htm
Website content and mobile optimization
When determining the content for your website, think first about who will be viewing your site. Is it going to target specific groups of people (current students, faculty, prospective students, parents) or a combination of many groups? Whatever the mix, this group is your audience, and you should design your site to fit their needs.
Determining your homepage content
A homepage is the entry point of your website — like a front door. It's the primary landing page where you will direct your customers.
On a mobile phone, your website's navigation resides within a collapsed menu. Because of this, you should use the content area of your homepage to direct customers to key features or calls to action.
Questions to consider:
- How will the customer know they're on the correct website?
- Develop a short introductory statement that describes your overall office function and confirms for customers that they are at the right place to get service. Strive for a short statement no longer than 25 words, and avoid flowery welcome statements. Plan to place this statement at the top of your homepage.
- What actions would you like the customer to perform?
- If you have three or fewer calls to action, plan to include these using call to action blocks on your homepage. If you have more than three calls to action, consider whether they can be distributed to appropriate sub-pages or if they can be consolidated into feature blocks that point to subpages with call to action blocks.
- What pages do you want to feature?
- If you have six or fewer pages to feature, plan to include these using feature blocks on your homepage. If you have more than six pages to feature, group similar pages into collections. Then plan to use feature blocks to promote the collections on your homepage and link to new landing pages.
Content requirements and best practices
Make certain all official web content is up-to-date and conforms with Missouri State policy statements. The Missouri State Web Policy lists additional guidelines for websites includes copyright, commercial activity, privacy and accessibility guidelines.
When you develop content for a new web page, think through what specific information you are communicating to your audience and try to deliver that information in the clearest, simplest way possible. The content on your website should be able to stand alone without context from other pages.
Here are some best practices to help optimize your web page content:
Focus on the most important information
When you’re writing content, start with the most important information at the top and follow with information in decreasing priority. This is known as the inverted pyramid style of writing.
Headings are helpful for organizing your content in a hierarchical way and drawing attention to important information. Headings also make it easier for readers to scan and find information that is relevant to them. We suggest using keywords in your headings that tie to the information that follows, which will help boost your web page ranking in search engine results.
Incorporate photos and videos
Photos and videos capture people’s attention and can help communicate information in a unique and appealing way. Try to incorporate images that complement your text, rather than restate it. Please be sure to write a short description of what the photo depicts in the image’s alternative text.
Link readers to relevant sites where they can find and consume more information about the subject. Links are user-friendly and increase the likelihood the reader will stay on the website. Instead of using the phrase “click here,” name your links with descriptive titles that indicate where the link is directing. In addition, we suggest setting links to point within a browser window rather than to open in a new window.
Create calls to action
Tell your audience specifically what you would like them to do on the web page, for instance “apply for admission” or “subscribe to our newsletter,” because it gives the readers clear next steps.
Optimize each web page
It’s important to review each web page for mobile-friendliness.
Questions to consider
Consider how to address the following questions:
- Is your content lean? Are there any passages of text that can be broken up with lists or into sections to become more scannable?
- Are paragraphs and sentences brief?
- Can you add a clear heading that will provide useful context to the text on your web page?
- What actions can be featured using call to action blocks?
- Do you have multimedia elements (such as or photos or videos) that might illuminate your office’s services, goals or impact?
- Do you have personnel or office listings that can be presented with people blocks?
Is your website helping achieve your goals? Is it providing your audience the information they’re looking for? One way to answer these questions is to measure your progress through Google Analytics. The office of Web and new media can assist you with pulling an analytics report or can set you up with an account where you can monitor your site’s usage.
Once you know how your site is performing, you can continue optimizing your content over time to increase your success.