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Design Guidelines

Following the evaluation of eight websites the project team was able to identify a set of website features appropriate to the dissemination of development research.

This now forms a set of design guidelines for websites disseminating development research to an international audience (note 23).

The guidelines are structured according to the components of website production previously outlined, with the exception of the component Management.

Many of these features are implemented or are in the process of being implemented by the Appropriate Software Foundation's Appropriate Website Factory.


  • Ensure that the website contains a detailed navigable menu, site index or site map. In a well-structured website this would be repeated on each page so that visitors are able to navigate between sections from any section of the site.

    A site index should be organised alphabetically. A site map is organized according to the structure of the site and reflects the most important sections and sub-sections.

  • Ensure that visitors can reach the home page from any page on the site. A suggested device for this would be to include a hyperlink in the website logo, which should be repeated on each page according to the same layout.

  • Orientate users by using a visual cue within the site menu, indicating which section they are in, in relation to the rest of the website. This might take the form of an arrow pointing to the page one is on within a list of pages.

  • Make sure each file's title is unique and meaningful (context independent). The title should be a maximum of 50-100 characters in length and be written with the first letter of each word in upper case.

  • Each individual webpage should have a unique and meaningful URL, which unambiguously reflects the contents of that page.

    Avoid long and complex URLs that can be degraded if sent in an e-mail. All HTML files should end in the same suffix, .htm or .html

  • Technology

  • Ensure that the website can be browsed when images are disabled in the browser by using hypertext alternatives to navigable images.

  • Ensure that any downloadable documents can be accessed in common standard file formats, such as HTML, RTF or Word 6.0.

  • Ensure that the HTML meets specified W3C standards. Validating as either HTML version 3.2 or version 4.0 should ensure that your website can be fully rendered in most browsers.

    A HTML validator available from the World Wide Web Consortium is available from http://validator.w3.org/

    Additional evaluation and repair software for web accessibility is available from
  • http://www.w3.org/WAI/ER/existingtools.html

  • Avoid using Frames, JavaScript and other forms of code not compatible with basic browsers. You may want to check which technologies work in which browsers by using a browser compatibility table. Advanced features can reduce download speeds, whilst Frames can hinder navigation or prevent book-marking.

    A detailed table showing browser type against coding standards for HTML, JavaScript and Frames, for example, can be found at

  • Avoid excessive use of large and numerous images that may reduce download times. Image files can be reduced through file compression, but aim to keep each file size under 55k.

    Image files can be compressed for free at
  • http://www.savei.net/gifcruncher.html


  • Ensure that the website's layout and formatting - in terms of the dimensions, positioning and colouration of all icons, links, text and background colours - are consistent between pages.

    A well designed website will use a template device, such as Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) to format all text, headers and graphics. CSS will save you time in maintaining your website, since only one file needs to be changed in order to update the look of the entire site.

  • A website's colour scheme should reflect the purpose of the site or adopt the organisations colours. Each colour used should represent only one category of information.

    Designers should keep in mind that bright background colours are distracting for readers since the text is not always easily distinguishable. The use of images as background is not recommended since this makes the page slower to download.

  • Content

  • Ensure that all posted articles feature the author's contact details. For ease of use this would preferably take the form of a mailto and would include the author's name and organisation.

  • Ensure that the webmaster's contact details are available. This is best achieved using a mailto device and should include a person name and organisation. Website contact details should be repeated on each page according to the same layout.

  • Insert a date of last-production stamp. This should be repeated on each page according to the same page layout.

  • Ensure that each page is appropriately titled with a meaningful context independent reference. This will help visitors arriving deep within the website (from an external link) to orientate themselves within the sites overall architecture.

    In a well-organised site each page title will correspond exactly with the file name for that webpage, as shown in the browsers address field.

  • Ensure that the semantics of all hypertext is appropriate and meaningful. The text used should be context-independent and clearly describe to visitors what they are being linked to.

    Given that some users will possess text-only browsers, it is important to repeat this exercise by providing links-as-text as an alternative to navigable images.

  • All downloads should show the size of the file so that users can anticipate download times.

  • Ensure that all text is appropriately referenced, with no evidence of spelling or grammatical errors.

  • Strategy

  • Maximise exposure to potential users through search engines by inserting keywords into your websites definition document. Each file should have up to ten keywords or keyword phrases to identify the content. Each keyword or keyword phrase should be separated by a comma followed by a space.

    Each file should also have a description of up to 250 characters. This description is the text that appears with the title in the results of a search in some search engines. Meta-information should minimally include unique titles for each page.

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