The checklist below outlines high-level best practices and content needs for websites built in the WUSM Web Theme.
The website checklist can help:
- As you build your website, so things are on track when it’s time to launch
- Before launch, as a self-audit to prepare your site for review
- After launch, as part of an annual review to keep your site current
Preparing your site for launch
Before your test site is published, WashU Medicine Marketing & Communications will review it to help you identify issues to address before going live. If you can tick through the items below, the launch review is more likely to go swiftly and smoothly.
Best practices and theme standards
Following web best practices and School of Medicine standards helps reinforce the reputation of Washington University as a world-class institution. If you really want your site to shine, also see our tips for writing for the web.
☐ Page titles are descriptive and succinct
A page’s title appears at the top of the page and should accurately convey the page’s contents. For advice and examples, see our guidelines for page titles.
☐ Subheadings are used to make pages scannable
Subheadings make pages more scannable and visually appealing. Use the preset headings in WordPress (paragraph > heading 2 / heading 3), rather than manually applying all-caps, bolding, underlining, centering or text color. See our guidelines for subheadings to learn more.
☐ Links are descriptive and styled correctly
Link and button text should clearly describe the page or information it links to. A good test: Links should be understandable even if you don’t read the surrounding text. See more tips and examples of effective links.
☐ Top-level pages include a featured image
The featured image spans across the top of a page, and any page listed in your main menu, starting with “HOME,” should have one (with exceptions for contact and map pages).* If you need new photography, see our recommendations for finding and taking photos.
☐ Footer has contact information
The site-specific footer (at the bottom of every page in light gray) should, at minimum, include your group’s name, mailing address and phone number.
On a desktop computer, menus include the links across the top and down the left of each page. On mobile devices, the menu is accessible from the top-right “☰ Menu” icon. Your footer may include a secondary menu, if you opted to add one.
☐ In site menus, page names are concise and parallel
In the header menu, all pages should fit on one line (typically eight pages or fewer). If needed, you can shorten a page’s title for the menu. See our tips and examples for page titles in menus.
☐ In site menus, each page is listed only once
A site menu is like a traditional outline: Each page has its place in an overall hierarchy, and the same page should not be repeated in two different sections. If a page appears in a left menu, for example, it should not also appear in the header or footer menu.
☐ Mobile menu matches desktop menu
Check the site menu on a mobile device against the header menu on a desktop computer, and make sure both menus list pages in the same order. The mobile menu is edited separately from the header menu, so it’s common for unintentional differences to occur.
As the front door to your website, your homepage should look good, highlight your most important message(s), and help people quickly find the information they need.
☐ Featured image represents your group
The theme’s default image shows two people walking through Hope Plaza; make sure you’ve swapped out this photo for an image that represents your group. See our photo guidelines for image sizes, tutorials and help selecting photos.
☐ Button promotes an important link or action
Your homepage should direct people to the most important action on your site (according to your target audience and site goals). Our homepage guidelines include tips for crafting a headline, description and button that make the most of this valuable space.
These items affect the usability of your site, as well as how well your site ranks in search engines like Google and Bing.
☐ Page content and images are legible across devices
The WUSM Web Theme is built to be mobile-friendly, but a mobile review is still important. A 2015 report found that more than half of all visits to the top 10,000 websites in the US were from mobile phones or tablets. Tap through your pages on a mobile device to make sure all images are clear and text is legible.
☐ Images are optimized for web
Before uploading images to your site, compress the file size so large image files don’t make your pages “heavy” (heavy pages slow site performance). If you’ve already uploaded large files (100 KB or larger), you can delete them from your media library and upload new ones.
☐ All links work
Click all links to make sure they go to the intended destination. Remember to check buttons, links in the footer, and email addresses that are set as links.
☐ Redirects are ready to go (implement after launch)
If your new website is replacing an old one, existing links and bookmarks to your old site will break when the new site launches. To solve this, it’s important to identify your most important and most-visited pages so you can set redirects from the old site to the new one. This should be done immediately after the new site launches.
Should you hide pages? When perfection is the enemy of good
It can be tempting to wait until everything on your site is perfect before launching it, but remember: You can continue editing your site and adding new pages once it’s live. Sometimes launching a site that’s missing a few planned pages or that needs a better image is preferable to sticking with the status quo – especially if the status quo is an outdated website or no website at all.
Talk to your project team or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like help striking the right balance between “done” and “ready to launch” (of course, a website that’s current is never really done). If you do launch your site with several enhancements pending, make sure you have a plan for completing those updates after the site goes live.
Thank you for working with us to create another great site for Washington University School of Medicine!
*Smaller websites, such as sites for labs and student interest groups, may omit the featured image from their top level pages. These website should still include a featured image on the homepage. Talk to your project team or email email@example.com if you would like to opt out of the featured image requirement.