Creating good online content - Kunnskapsbasen
Creating good online content
This checklist is intended for those who produce, publish and maintain content on NTNU's online services. The focus of this article is creating useful content for users as well as for NTNU.
Norsk versjon - Lage godt innhold på nett
- Three important principles:
- Content and process
- Translation guidelines
- More information on
- Social media
- Content for tablets and smartphones
- Content strategy
Three important principles:
Readers should be able to:
- Find content easily: Tag content, use good headings and page titles.
- Quickly read and understand our content: Be concise, use plain language, and structure the content well.
- Avoid old and outdated information: Follow routines for deleting and updating content you are responsible for.
These rules apply primarily to portals and navigation pages, while more detailed pages for your research are often appropriate.
Content and process
Planning your content
A primary target audience should be defined before you start. Consider also, whether the content you are planning support the users' needs as well as NTNU's strategic goals. Critical content should be tested for usability. The definition of success or failurewill depend on what we define as the goal for that page.
Strongly consider collaborating with others at NTNU who have created or need to create similar content. Multiple pages that do or say the same thing can and should be combined.
- Placement and access:
Where should the content be placed?
Should it be available both externally and internally?
- Visibility in search:
What search words will the target audience of the content use to find the content?
Does the content need to be translated to another language?
Is there content in an attachment that should be rewritten and added as html? Are there any forms that can be digitalized?
Think twice before you publish news on any website. Most users aren't interested in reading news; they are looking for content that solves a specific problem.
While you are writing
- The problem:
When working with content, imagine that you are solving a problem for the user. This helps avoid writing passive information texts. The content should clearly answer the problem the user needs to solve.
- The words you choose:
Be safe, precise, sober and honest, and avoid advertisement-like language. The use of 'you' and 'we' is encouraged. Difficult academic expressions shouldn't be used without explaining the terms. Use active language: we don't write “the research project is aiming to focus on...” when we can write “our project focuses on...”
The title should be descriptive and should start with a meaningful word.
The most important point should be first, followed by information in decreasing importance. Divide the content into small paragraphs, each of which should elaborate on a single point or idea. Good text design means using bullet points and highlighting trigger words.
Creating links is important. The text in a link should be meaningful and actively formulated. Formulating good link texts (Currently only in Norwegian)
- Examples and illustrations:
"Show, don't tell." Use examples when describing your research and achievements, but don't make exaggerated claims. Use documentary pictures that support the content.
Tips for writing content (Currently Norwegian only)
Checklist - publishing content
- Is this content tailored to the target audience?
- Does thos content emphasize important points?
- Is this language understandable for the user?
- Does this content have a good, scannable structure and design?
- Rework your content - Take 5 minutes to read through your page, and remove unnecessary words and sentences. If you didn't remove anything, consider having someone else check the quality and usefulness of the content.
- Double check the content for misspellings. Have someone else proofread it for you.
- Check that the page follows the guidelines for universal design.
All content at NTNU is part of an “ecosystem”. Once created and published it must be updated, reworked, and eventually deleted or archived. As content producers we must all commit to systematically follow all content through this cycle — this is the only way to keep things under control. The alternative is a junkyard that no one wants to sort through.
Be accountable for updates
Update, update, update. All content should be updated at all times.
- Make sure that an individual has been formally identified as responsible for the page.
- Always set a date for when the content should be revised.
- Crucial and frequently used content should be carefully monitored.
Statistics and feedback are important when you revise content. It can also be smart to work with others at NTNU, and review each other's content. (Write a post in Nytt om Nett if you are interested in a a quick reveiw from a colleage.) Expertise in online communication best practices is especially important in this phase of the process.
Content should be available when needed
NTNU's academic calendar contains many deadlines and repeating events: application deadlines, exam deadlines, enrollment and registration, research documentation and budget deadlines. Those of use who work with seasonal content should make a yearly plan for reviewing relevent content updating it.
Content should be available when needed. For example, students will want to know as early as March when the autumn semester starts, so that they can plan vacations and summer jobs. A yearly plan helps us to be on top of things.
Keeping track of search traffic can help when you set up a yearly plan. This data can be used to examine which are the most frequent search words at different times of year.
Archiving and deleting content
- Outdated content should be deleted or archived.
- When a page is deleted, decide if it makes sense to redirect the user to newer or similar content.
- Dated content can have some archival value for a number of years. Examples include: conferences, completed research projects or news. Content with historical value should be put in a separate, searchable archive.
- All content that pertains to international users and foreign students and employees should be translated. We must have routines for translation.
- For critical content, the translation should be checked by someone with impeccable proofreading skills.
- Work with your translation. Direct translation from Norwegian to English doesn't work well. English language is often more polite, so direct translations can seem crass and impolite.
- If you have a website with English-only content, make sure to have at least one page in Norwegian where you summarize the most important information and key words as well as links to the English website. Ensure that the your content can be found when Norwegian users search with Norwegian terms.
- The law states that our external webpages must have both written forms of Norwegian (bokmål and nynorsk) in at least 25% of texts. (This law does not apply to the intranet).
NTNU's English style guide can be a good starting point for more concise language.
Don't abandon Norwegian!
NTNU has a responsibility to contribute to the development of the Norwegian language and Norwegian academic terminology. Avoid using English where Norwegian can be used. See NTNU's guidelines for language policies. (Currently in Norwegian only)
More information on
- Images online
- Videos and sound clips
- Making documents searchable – pdf, and other document formats
- Universal design of web content
Working with content also means being where the users are, answering questions, sharing content and responding to comments.
- If the content on our own website is well-written and easily accessible, we will avoid unnecessary use of social media.
- We need an overview of which users need specific content.
- We need to constantly evaluate if we have the resources to be involved in the dialogue on every plattform and channel, and make changes as necessary.
- We should share content on social media where it is necessary, for example via Facebook, Twitter or by commenting on others' blogs. If we have research news, we should search for applicable blogs or groups (user-oriented communication).
Content for tablets and smartphones
We need to ensure that the most important NTNU content can be accessed both via mobile devices and tablets.
- A responsive, modern web presence:
We should create and maintain templates that work equally well in the most commonly used digital platforms, and keep up to date with recent developments. Using responsive design rather than creating native apps for everything has a cost advantage: we don't have to maintain many versions of our content on multiple channels.
Some content at NTNU may be suitable for native, stand-alone applications (finding people, finding rooms, calendars, etc). Make a cost-benefit analysis before you start making an app.
This checklist is a part of NTNU's content strategy.