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Website Task Force: Research Guide Best Practices

Best Practices Document

Display Best Practices

  • The guide has been edited for conciseness
  • The guide has a clear visual hierarchy
  • One row of tabs (if applicable)
  • Tab titles are limited to four words or less
  • Contact information is listed on main page
  • Quick Links box and profile box do not appear on every page.
  • Column-width has been adjusted to avoid empty space and maximize use of available space
  • Colors and fonts are standardized within guide (same size, style, and color. Only bold, italic, or underline are used to distinguish text)

 Source: Used with permission from Clarence Maybee, Librarian, Purdue University


This document (from Purdue University) provides a list of standards that can be used when creating content for different areas of a LibGuide.  Not all standards are applicable to our guides, but there is still a wealth of knowledge (and room for discussion) in this document.

Content Best Practices

  • Limit number of tabs on the guide.
  • Try not to use more than one row of tabs.
  • Keep the number of words in each tab to three words or less.
  • Don't make the pages text heavy.
  • Keep the information above the fold.
  • Focus on the "F" pattern when designing your page.
  • Keep it simple!

Items for Discussion

Do we want a consistent, defined color theme?
Do we want box sizes the same across all guides?
Do we want to provide subject specific search terms on each guide?
Do we want to link to PDFs in our guides? (some research shows that these do not get used)
Do we want to standardize the titles that we give our guides? In other words, do we want to define naming conventions for our guides?
Who are we trying to reach?
What are your thoughts on a review process for the guides?

Content Best Practices

In researching content best practices, I've found that schools take one of two tactics. The first is an exhaustive checklist of exactly which sections and information should be included on each LibGuide. For example:

The University fo Washington's LibGuides checklist includes both formatting guidelines and tips on how to keep content concise, such as breaking up long lists of databases and using images to complement your text, not pull focus from it.

Other schools provide advice on how to write for the web. For example:

Coastal Carolina University's LibGuide Standards document includes specific requirements on conciseness, lengths for lists, lengths for videos, etc.

One of the most useful documents I came across is this document from a presentation at the ARLIS/NA conference in 2010 by Nedda Ahmed of Georgia State University and Jill E. Luedke of Temple University. The session focused on content creation for the web, and includes a helpful section of guidelines on how to make text concise, objective, and scannable, as well as considerations for designing text, such as carefully choosing when to bold, italicize, or underline text.

Discussion Questions:

Would our staff balk against such prescriptive guidelines for LibGuides content? How could we include content creation in our best practices document while still allowing room for creativity?

How woud a content best practices document differ from our current LibGuide template and ability to copy pre-composed boxes into our guides? 

In what ways could we use content guidelines to improve our students' use and comprehension of materials presented in LibGuides format?


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