WWW Style Committee Report

Draft Version 1.6, April 13, 1995

To:
WWW Technical Committee
From:
WWW Style Committee
Re:
Recommendations for style of SLAC Web pages

Background and Introduction

The WWW Style Committee was created as an ad hoc committee by WWW Technical Committee to explore a number of stylistic issues raised about SLAC's institutional and home pages, and to recommend some general guidelines regarding present and future page design at SLAC.

Members of the committee are chair, P.A. Moore (xanadu@slac.stanford.edu), Karen Heidenreich (karen@slac.stanford.edu), Kathryn Henniss (henniss@slac.stanford.edu), Judy Nowag (jbn@slac.stanford.edu), and Joan Winters (winters@slac.stanford.edu).

The committee met over a three-month period (February through April, 1995), talked with people from the SLAC community involved with the Web, and reviewed numerous Web documents.

At this time, the Committee welcomes comments from the SLAC community about its preliminary recommendations as represented in this draft, and is particularly interested in input concerning which of the three SLAC core pages (see discussion below) should come up as the default in response to the request http://www.slac.stanford.edu/.

Comments and discussion may be posted to www-l@slac.stanford.edu or may be directed to members of the committee. The deadline for submitting comments that the Committee will consider in preparing their final report to the WWW Technical Committee is April 24, 1995.

This report outlines the preliminary recommendations of the WWW Style Committee, in the following order:

Part 1:
Overview and operational definitions
Part 2:
The charge to the group, recommendations, and rationale, and
Part 3:
Other issues not mentioned in the charge, but deemed relevant to the Web at SLAC.
This document is stored in /afs/slac.stanford.edu/www/slac/www/wwwtech/wwwstyle/draftreport.html.

Part 1: Overview

It is recognized that the Web has been a part of communications technology and publishing for the past two years and that much has changed in that short a time. Much more is likely to change in the next few years as well. The recommendations listed below form a snapshot of current opinion, and are subject to review in the future to test their validity and make modifications based on new developments.

We recognize that page owners volunteer their time to design and maintain Web pages, so our intention is to encourage some degree of institutional consistency for SLAC Web pages yet at the same time allow for departmental and individual differences in page design. We have relied greatly on the many design features previously developed by the WWW Technical Committee, and especially Joan Winters as the designer of the SLAC core pages (see Operational Definitions below), among others.

Operational Definitions

The following definitions are used in this document:
Web page
An HTML file viewable on the World Wide Web (WWW).
SLAC Web page
A Web page that lives on a SLAC computer.
home page(s)
A page or pages which constitute the intentional entry point(s) into a group/department/organization/institution's page space on the WWW.
core pages
A primary group of pages, including a home page or pages which provide links to other pages in the space. The SLAC "core pages" reflect the three-page model described in the text following Charge #3 below.
owner
The individual(s) responsible for providing and maintaining information on a page. This will usually be the person or people who implement(s) the page, but in some cases the owner and the person who generates the HTML file may be distinct. Multiple owners as well as primary/secondary owners may be appropriate.

Part 2: Charge, Recommendations, and Rationale

Charge #1 and Charge #2

The organizational identification of all SLAC Web pages including what required elements, if any, are needed and

Charge #2

The minimum requirement for identification such as a standard logo (image/text).

Recommendation:

We recommend five required elements for Web pages at SLAC:
  1. page owner
  2. modification date
  3. institutional identifier (graphic or text)
  4. titles/headers
  5. "legal notices" such as disclaimer, copyright, privacy statement

Rationale/Discussion

Elements 1 and 2: Owner and Date

The page owner and modification date are both purely practical elements. With ownership of a page, there is a person accountable internally for the information and its accuracy, and externally as a contact regarding feedback from readers. Information posted reflects the intelligence, integrity and competence of the owner and of SLAC as an institution. Therefore, we recommend that all page owners consult others such as computing czars, Web contact persons, and other page owners to ensure that page(s) reflect well on both the individual and the institution.

The modification date provides information to the reader reflecting the currency of information.

Date and ownership may be placed on the top or bottom of a page and we recommend that the /owner script (exemplified on the SLAC Template Page) or some functional equivalent be used for representing page ownership. The advantages of using the SLAC /owner script are:


Element 3: Institutional Identifier(s)

Institutional identifiers provide a graphical and/or textual means of name recognition. They provide the reader with a navigational context and give the page an aesthetic quality. We recommend that an icon or the word "SLAC" be used on every SLAC home page as a link to the SLAC Institutional Page, and that other divisions or department pages contain an analogous icon or word as a link to their respective page(s).

Element 4: Titles and headers

As part of good HTML practice, all pages should have a title. A page's title and the text in its header material (which may appear in a prominent graphic element like a banner and/or the first h1 on the page) should be consistent. Every SLAC Home Page (see "Operational Definitions," above) should have the word "SLAC" in its title. This helps recognition and aids in information retrieval using automated indexing tools.

Element 5: Legal information

Legal information such as disclaimers, privacy statements, and/or copyright are a part of doing business as a DOE facility. We recommend that a pointer to these items be placed on SLAC core pages as a routine matter.

In summary, all SLAC Web pages should have owner, date, consistent titles/headers, and an institutional identifier. For all SLAC home pages, the institutional identifier should be "SLAC" (or graphic equivalent), and its title should contain the word "SLAC". All SLAC core pages (see discussion of SLAC core pages below) should in addition have a link to the standard disclaimer. (The Committee recognizes that this issue may need further clarification with the SLAC Counsel.)

Charge #3

The structure of SLAC core pages and what links should exist among them.
(N.B. The original text of the Committee's charge referred to the "SLAC Institutional Home Page" and the "working page." The Committee has chosen to view both the institutional page and the home page(s) as necessary parts of the "core" pages (see below), and have structured its recommendations correspondingly.)

Recommendation

We recommend a three-page model for the SLAC core pages, as described below.

Rationale

The core pages at SLAC consist of (1) an institutional, or "brochure" page, and a pair of working home pages: (2) a "sparse" home page and (3) a "dense" home page (see diagram).

The "Institutional Page" contains general information considered to be primarily of interest to visitors to SLAC WWW space, while the home pages provide information that is more oriented towards SLAC users, although it is recognized that there may be considerable overlap between these two broadly defined user categories. Since the Institutional Page creates SLAC's most public-oriented presence on the Web, it is appropriate for this page to contain more graphics than the two working home pages would.

The "Sparse Home Page" (and its related pages) functions like a top-level, generalized table of contents to SLAC WWW space, while the "Dense Home Page" is a more exhaustive, index-like reference page. The current production SLAC Home Page is an example of a "dense" home page.

The proposed sparse page would consist primarily of the top-level entries from the dense home page, which in turn link to single HTML pages containing all the links under that heading on the dense page.

The evolution of the dual home-page scheme is a response to user feedback and much discussion among the Style Committee members that indicates that there are legitimate preferences for both types of access to SLAC's rich information space.

Ideally, a script should be written which is run to generate/update the sparse home page and its related pages from the dense home page, to minimize maintenance efforts, as well as to ensure informational consistency across both sparse and dense pages. Development of such a script requires more study.

Experienced Web users can set their browsers to default to whichever page best suits their needs.

It remains to be decided which of the three SLAC core pages (institutional, sparse home page, or dense home page) should be designated to come up in response to the request http://www.slac.stanford.edu/. The question is, do we

Charge #4

Guidelines for organization of Web pages, i.e., best practice approach to structuring page content.

Recommendation

Pages can be organized at the owner's discretion.

Rationale

This is a subjective debate, based largely on the owner's point of view and the page content; however, there are two key items to keep in mind. One is that the longer the file, and the more graphics, the more time is takes to transfer over the network; second, some people may not be patient with scrolling more than 2-3 pages. We suggest that the page owner:

Part 3: Other Issues

Recommendation

The Style Committee recommends that a small, representative group of people be appointed by the Associate Director of the Research Division, to serve as a Web Policy Group. Those chosen should represent as many different groups from the lab as possible.

Rationale

Given the choice between anarchy on the Web and some form of regulation, we opt for minimal regulation. We recognize the individuality of persons and the culture of groups departments which mitigate against any regulation. However, we also feel that the external audience of the Web makes a strong case for some ultimate authority on policy issues which may impact SLAC as an institution.

We need to communicate issues about the Web. At some point we may need some mechanism for enforcement of some policy or procedure. Given this point of view, we recommend an on-going policy group with the authority to do the following:

  1. Establish policy on Web issues.
  2. Disseminate Web information regularly, including encouraging the use of recommended practices.
  3. Resolve conflicts.
  4. Appoint sub-groups to discuss special issues as they arise.
It is assumed that the WWW Technical Committee will continue. We also recommend that the WWW Style Committee become a standing committee, in recognition that emerging style conventions and evolving technological standards are far from static. In addition, this standing committee would then be able to build on the common conceptual ground established so far. Both Style and Technical Committees should report to the Policy Group, and members of each of these committees will also serve on the Policy Group.

Input to the Policy Group is expected to be from a variety of sources such as page owners, the WWW Technical and Style Committees, and other groups, like the [Go Back to the Top]


Last updated Thu Apr 13 19:34:00 PDT 1995 by Henniss