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National Library of Medicine Web Design Policies

Contents

1. Federal Guidelines

The Web Content area on the HowTo.gov web site provides an excellent list of the must do's and should do's of federal Web site design. All Web sites or applications hosted and/or developed for the National Library of Medicine (NLM), need to fulfill the items on the HowTo.gov Best Practices for Government Websites page and the Web Technology Best Practices for Federal Agencies page.

Sites or applications developed in cooperation with NLM, are not held to these federal requirements, but the guidelines below, and the Best Practices, provide an excellent basis for usable design.

However, sites are held to the federal requirements contained in the OMB memo Policies for Federal Agency Public Websites (PDF).

2. Content of Web Pages

2.1. Location of Files and Elimination of Duplication

There should be only one copy of each document that may be pointed to from other pages, documents, document collections, or home pages. For example, there should be only one version of an NLM Fact Sheet, or one version of an NLM report. For consistency and timeliness, individual programs should not create copies of documents but should point to the version where it is maintained by the creator.

3. Navigation/Organization

3.1 Links

All major and minor links should be created using a combination of XHTML and style sheets. The use of images to indicate links should be avoided, since the fonts in these buttons cannot be increased using browser controls and appears distorted when viewed in a magnifier software. For an example of using style sheets and background images to create text-based navigation, see http://www.alistapart.com/articles/slidingdoors/.

3.2 Link to NLM Home Page

A home page for a set of Web pages or application must provide a link to the NLM home page.

3.3 Links to External Sites and Pages

All external links should be valid and clearly identified by including the page title (or appropriate description).

When pointing to sites outside NLM, documents must contain a link to NLM Copyright Information, which covers copyright, a disclaimer about external links, and access restrictions, based on NIH Guidelines.

3.4 Required Elements: Dates and Email Address

Include the following on all pages, in comment tags, at the bottom of the page:

  • an expiration date, one year from the current date, in the following format:
    <!-- EXPDATE="YYYY-MM-DD" -->
  • an email contact of the NLM contributor:
    <!-- EMAIL="NLM e-mail address goes here" -->

Include a last updated date on all pages, in the footer. NOTE: the last updated date should change only when content changes are made to the file.

  • Last updated: DD Month YYYY

3.5 Navigation Aids

Navigation aids such as menu bars, a mapped bar or buttons allow the user to move logically through a document, document collection, or home page. Documents should be designed so that users will not have to rely on the browser's navigation aids (e.g., back, forward buttons, history lists).

3.6 Navigation Aids for Multi-page Documents

For a document which is arranged like a book, the end of the page should provide links to:

  • a table of contents
  • the next chapter, section, or page
  • previous chapter (or page)

3.7 Skip Navigation

All HHS pages must provide a method for skipping repetitive navigation.

Go to the HHS web site http://webstandards.hhs.gov/standards/16 for more information.

4. Style/Markup

4.1 Testing of Web Pages

Web pages should be tested with Internet Explorer 8/9, Safari 5, and Mozilla Firefox 23 (minimum). If you are creating a new, unique set of pages, you must test with multiple browsers.

4.2 Titles

Every page shall have a title. The title will be as short as possible but fully informative and specific.

4.3 Meta Tags

META tags may be used between the HEAD tags to judiciously describe the contents of a document. Meta tags are used to enhance ranking or retrieval of Web pages on both local and major search engines. Meta tags for keywords (e.g., <META name="keywords" content="MEDLINE">) or descriptive phrases (e.g., <META name="description" content="The National Library of Medicine (NLM), on the campus of NIH in Bethesda, Maryland, is the world's largest medical library"> may be included.

Refer to NLM's approved NLM Metadata Schema for further detail.

If possible, remove all META tags generated by HTML editors.

4.4 Fonts and Colors

  • Font family and other layout elements are defined by NLM's official Style Sheets. Use linked style sheets to customize font appearance if necessary.
  • All HTML defined colors must be defined as six-digit hexadecimal numbers. Use linked style sheets to customize color attributes if necessary.

4.5 File Formats

Material intended to be viewed, read or browsed online should be prepared in HTML format for text and gif or jpeg for graphics. Links to files in proprietary or unusual formats should be explicitly noted. For example, if a document or service requires the use of special third-party software (e.g., Adobe Acrobat Reader) place "(PDF)" after the file link.

4.6 Names of URLs and Files

  • Use simple, understandable words, as short as possible.
  • Use lower case, unless upper case is required.
  • Do not use spaces or special characters, except for hyphens or underscores. For example:
    • medicine-image.gif NOT medicine image.gif
    • health_content.html NOT HEALTH CONTENT.html

4.7 Relative URLs

Within a server, relative (and not absolute) links must be used in order to make documents and collections portable. Begin your link at the root of the server. For example:

Express as: <a href="/pubs/fs/nlm.html"></a>
Not as: <a href="http://www.nlm.nih.gov/pubs/fs/nlm.html"></a>.

5. Policy

  • Pages shall be "live" and not presented as "under construction."
  • There should be no endorsement of commercial products.

6. Administration

Any NLM organizational unit may contribute pages, documents, document collections, or home pages to the main NLM World Wide Web server. Content and policy approval by the organization's Associate Director or designee must be obtained prior to placement.

7. Questions

If additional information or clarification is needed on any of the above, contact the National Library of Medicine Web & Information Unit at wwwnlm@nlm.nih.gov.