Technical Notes

Cascading Style Sheets

We strongly recommend the use of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). To increase accessibility, however, always organize documents so they may be read without style sheets.

Fonts

Font sizes and accessibility: Most browsers support resizing of fonts. Fonts should be set via style sheets rather than deprecated HTML. When sizing text, the use of em's is recommended over fixed point sizes such as pixels, to support re-sizing. Use of HTML heading tags such as <h1> and <h2> also helps text reading devices to interpret the structure of the page.  More information on accessibility...

Printing Web Pages

Different versions of browsers print Web pages differently. Any browser after 2003 will fit a printed image to the size of the page, but older browsers will crop images to fit page width (532 pixels in A4 letter size).

PDF: If you want to make certain pages consistent for printing across all browsers, you should create a print style sheet.  You can also convert them to Adobe Acrobat Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF helps maintain a page's design and content integrity by making the page into an inalterable image. It is useful for documents specifically intended to be printed, such as forms. However, PDF is not the preferred format for typical informational pages.

Search Engines and Meta Tags

Search engines regularly catalog page content and other relevant information into an index for easy retrieval when a user initiates a search. Meta tags show information about the content. You, the content owner, can make it easier for users to find what you have by using both of these methods to help define and describe the content of your pages.

Meta tags help search engines find and index your web pages. Meta tags provide:
  1. A brief description of the content.
  2. Keyword search terms for indexing.
  3. The name of the author or authoring department.

Northwestern's search engine generates search results by comparing search terms against a pre-made index of the content of every page in the www.northwestern.edu domain. Using meta tags increases the likelihood that people searching for your information will find it. Please note that meta tags are required for home pages; optional (strongly encouraged), for interior pages.

Meta Tag Technical Information

Northwestern University community members can use the Northwestern University Dublin Core Meta Tag Generator to generate meta tags.

Write a unique description for each page. The meta tag generator will produce HTML code based on the information you submit. Paste this code into your documents within the <head> tag. Dreamweaver template users should note that the meta tags are pasted inside the "doctitle" section of the page, directly underneath the title.

URLs

When redesigning a site, try to avoid changing the URLs of existing pages, as this will "break" links for those who have added links from their site to yours.

In general, URLs should use lowercase letters, and multiple-word phrases in URLs should be separated by hyphens for reasons of readability, web accessibility and search engine optimization.