Website style guide

Webpages should be clear, brief and easy for users to scan. Essentially the opposite of typical "academic" writing.

Below are some do's and don'ts when editing college webpages. Let Alan know if there is something that should be added.

Also refer to University Relations and Marketing's Editorial Style. It is a great collection of information such as which words to capitalize, all the proper forms of alumni, everything anyone would want to know about punctuation ... and more.




Webpages should be written to easily scan to the content a user is looking for. Headings help with this.

Using the proper order of headings also follows best practices for the Web Accessibility Guidelines that Oregon State has pledged to follow. Users of assistive devices are able to scan pages for relevant content by skipping through headings. Headings also help with search engine optimization.

Don't have a heading also be a link.

Use a link within the text that follows a heading.


Keep H3 headings short. Avoid using full sentences as a heading. Headings are meant to be scanned. Full sentences take more cognitive effort to read.


Use H4 heading instead of bold text.

While H4 headings often look similar to bold type, they do not act the same for assistive devices. Users of assistive devices are able to skip to the next heading while interacting with a page. They are not able to do so with bold text. But also, minimize your use of bold text. (see below)


Font size


Do not use H3 just to have a larger font size. While there are ways of using inline CSS styles to make some text larger... please avoid doing so. Users can increase/decrease the font size on their devices if need be.




Avoid bolding words - and especially whole sentences and phrases. The more things are bolded - the less likely anything in particular stands out. If a sentence needs to stand out - place it on its own line. There are other ways to draw attention to it. If your writing is clear and efficient - there shouldn't be a need to bold anything.




URL as link

Never use a url in your content. This isn't print.

Use this: For more information see OSU's Web Accessibility page on descriptive links.
Never this: For more information see


Descriptive links

Avoid using the words "click here". "click" is already implied by being a link. You shouldn't need to tell someone how to click a link and people on mobile devices don't "click".

Avoid using the word "here" to designate a link. Links should be descriptive of where they go.

Use this: For more information see OSU's Web Accessibility page on descriptive links.
Instead of this: For more information about descriptive links click here.


Links to files

Users assume links go to another webpage. If it doesn't, you should let them know. I mostly see this for PDF files. Simply add the filetype after the link.

Use this: To apply, fill out the Undergrad LIFE Scholars application (pdf).
Instead of this: To apply, fill out the Undergrad LIFE Scholars application.


Open in new tab/window

Users assume links will open in the same window they are in. Please keep it that way. If a user wants to open a link in a new tab/window they can choose to do so on their own.

Even to external sites?

Yes. At some point it may have been a web practice to have any links to external sites open in a new tab. That is no longer the case.


Contact info


Reduce the redundancy of contact info.

Ideally, just link to the person's profile page. All contact info is located there.

Use this: For more information contact Alan Calvert.
Instead of this: For more information email Alan Calvert at

Side note. It's really obvious is an email address. Please don't label it in a contact form like in the following:

Alan Calvert
Coordinator of Web and Social Media
Phone: 541-737-2315


Exclamation points!!!!


Just don't.
It's similar to bolding. I've found that people that use exclamation points usually use them on every sentence. Don't yell at your audience. It's up to them to be excited by your words, not your punctuation.


Avoid PDF for On-Screen Reading


Forcing users to browse PDF files causes frustration and slow task completion, compared to standard webpages. Use PDF only for documents that users will print. In those cases, following 10 basic guidelines will minimize usability problems.