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Best Practices and Guidelines

The web services team has put together these best practices and guidelines for web editors to establish and maintain consistent formatting and branding across the site. Following these guidelines, will ensure a both a better searching experience for the SDSU community of users and less time spent on maintenance for all parties.

All pages must:

Best Practices

As an editor you can make your work much easier and help you audience find answers by linking to authority sources rather than duplicating existing content.

When discussing common topics like admissions, graduation requirements, alumni, study abroad, computer requirements, scholarships, etc..., look to the office/area who manages it. They usually have a page with current information. Do NOT copy this text and paste it onto another page. Instead, link to the authority page or simply replace the page you have with their page in your menu.

Be clear and concise in all writing on the website. Most people scan a page quick to locate the content they need.

  • Keep it simple:
    • Use plain language and simple sentences.
    • Be clear and concise.
    • Choose clarity over cleverness.
    • Bold and italic text should not take the place of headings.
    • Keep sentences under 25 words or less.
    • Use call-to-actions.
    • Don't use the website as a filing cabinet for non-relevant past information.
  • Ask yourself:
    • Who is going to see this page?
    • What do they need to know?
    • What are my main call-to-actions I want them to find?
    • Each piece of content needs a job - is it necessary and serving a purpose?

Copying and pasting from Microsoft Word is very problematic. Word uses hidden code to stylize items that is different than HTML coding used on websites. That hidden code does not translate well in a copy and paste and can even break a site.

Best practice is to copy text only. You can add any style elements like bold, italicize, bullet points and tables in the text editor on the website.

Program pages are the pages linked to the Degree Explorer tool. Every major, minor, certificate and graduate program has a link. These pages are specifically laid out to speak to interested students. Departments should take advantage of these pages by linking to them from their department, school or college page when needed.

Do NOT copy these pages onto your department page. This creates duplicate information that is harder to maintain and can be confusing for students.

If you need assistance adding a program page to the menu structure of a department, school or college page, please contact

It is good practice to continually review your web content to make sure it is accurate and current. A best practice would be to make sure at minimum you do this thoroughly once a year.

How to review your content:

  1. Log into Drupal
  2. Go to All Recent Content
  3. Filter by Author or Department/Landing Page
    • Author: Enter your name.
    • Department/Landing Page: Search by title for a department or landing page. Copy the ID number in the far right column. Clear the title search and enter the ID number in the Department or Landing Page field.
  4. Click the 'Apply' button

Make sure to check both published and unpublished content for updates. Also make sure to delete any pages that are no longer needed.

A revision log is kept when editing pages on Many web editors like to maintain a list of what’s been changed on a page so they can see who made changes and what those changes were. The “Revisions” tab also comes in handy if an editor needs to revert back to a previous version or to preview what the page looked like previously.

Consistency across pages and platforms breeds user comfort and brand identity. Speaking through content with a uniform university voice develops a rapport of reliability between us and the user.

Active Voice

Active voice supports brevity and makes written content more engaging. The active voice helps the reader identity the subject of the sentence.

Tip: Try Dr. Rebecca Johnson's method of detecting passive vs. active voice: if you insert “by zombies” after the verb and the sentence still makes sense, you’re using the passive voice.

  • Active: Purchase stamps at Information Exchange.
  • Passive: Stamps can be purchased at Information Exchange.

AP Style Guidelines

Here are some abbreviation tips:

  • In the majority of cases, spell out words and do not abbreviate.
  • Use official building names.
  • Common abbreviations with appropriate punctuation:
    • B.S.
    • M.S.
    • Ph.D.
    • B.S.N.
    • M.S.N.
    • CAN
    • LPN
    • DNP
    • RN
  • Jan. 30, 2020
  • Don’t add “th” or “st” after a date.
  • Spell out month when used alone or with just year (no date).
    • Example: January 2020
  • 605-688-6161
  • 2 p.m.
  • 4:30 a.m.
  • 2-3 p.m.
  • 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
  • 9 a.m.-noon
  • 7 p.m.-midnight
  • Do not use an oxford comma (comma before ‘and’ in a series).
    • Example: The cat, dog and chicken jumped across the road.
  • Adviser
    • Adviser is the appropriate spelling with an “e.”
      • For example, John Doe is the professional adviser for Eta Sigma Delta.
    • However, the National Academic Advising Association prefers advisor with an “o” only when using the words “academic advisor” together.
  • Freshman/Freshmen
    • Freshman – a singular noun or adjective.
      • Example: a college freshman, the freshman class.
    • Freshmen – a plural noun.
      • Example: the freshmen assembled quickly.
  • SDState
    • SDState is one word in reference to the university.
  • University
    • University, when used by itself, should be lowercase – university.
  • Common words that are misspelled:
    • canceled
    • livestream
    • living-learning community
  • Page titles and headings can have the first letter of each word capitalized.
  • No ALL CAPS.
  • AP style will be used for news stories on page titles and headings.


Light-hearted, digestible content appeals to this group. During the evaluation stage of the college search, prospective students browse the website to get a feel for what the university offers. They are less likely to spend an extended time on a single page as they scan for a quick reflection of the university as a whole. They are unfamiliar with the website’s navigation, and will get lost in text-heavy or image-less pages.

This group is likely to respond to messaging that reflects:

  • Advantages of SDSU campus life
  • Student involvement
  • Campus clubs and organizations
  • Academic opportunities
  • Brookings community

Our recent prospective student market research outlines top reasons for interest in considering SDSU, including:

  • affordable tuition,
  • safe environment,
  • high job placement rate of graduates,
  • university size,
  • strong academics in desired majors and
  • good financial aid packages.

Content that emboldens campus spirit and engagement appeals to this group. Current students search for content that connects them to university resources—tutoring, advising, event listings and involvement opportunities. Now that they’ve committed to the university, they look for ways to branch out.

This group is likely to respond to messaging that reflects:

  • Academic support
  • Campus events and news
  • Student clubs and organizations
  • Experiential learning opportunities
  • On-campus employment
  • Intramural sports

As an influential figure in a prospective student’s college decision, parents respond well to tailored content that reflect their point of view. They seek validation of a university’s ample academic, financial aid and safety resources. Straight-forward messaging that outlines what they can expect from the university enhances their website experience.

This group is likely to respond to messaging that reflects:

  • Scholarship and financial aid
  • Safety and security
  • Academic opportunities
  • Advising resources
  • Student clubs and organizations

As investors in the university, stakeholders and partners look to keep updated on ongoing research, infrastructure and academic program developments. This group may have trouble working through the mass of student-centered web pages to find content specific to their interests.

This group is likely to respond to messaging that reflects:

  • University-wide research efforts
  • Faculty and staff accomplishments
  • Campus events and news
  • Academic department and program growth