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Website Guidelines & Best Practices

When you require a new website or need to revise or enhance an existing one, contact us. We will collaborate with you to ensure that your website has:

  • a visually appealing look
  • clear, concise content
  • error-free functionality
  • proper usability
  • search engine optimization (SEO)

Read "Steer Your Website Toward Success."


We're here to guide you in content creation, design and editing. Project completion depends upon the project scope and the number of projects currently underway. We strive to work collaboratively and in a timely fashion.

Write for Your Readers

Most online users have limited time or patience to read—they scan. When writing and editing, ask:

  • Who is my audience?
  • What do they really need to know?
  • What actions do they need to take?
  • Is the information clear to all users (not just your office or department)?
  • Is there a shorter way to say this?
  • Does the tone follow Smith’s branding and style?

Writing Tips

  • Follow the Smith Style Guide for general rules of punctuation, spelling, capitalization and usage.
  • Watch verb tenses. Keep in mind what information will become dated and revise content as needed.
  • Keep paragraphs short and use the inverted pyramid style of writing (most important information first).
  • Be specific and offer useful information. Avoid institutional language and jargon.
  • Organize content so that visitors can easily get to what they need.
  • Use concise headlines and subheads.
  • Use bulleted lists to make content easy to skim and navigate.
  • Make sure graphics, photos or videos enhance the message, not slow things down.
  • Create useful hypertext links.
  • Don't be tempted to save and archive old content.

A good rule of thumb: When editing, remove clutter. Cut, then cut again.

Formatting Dos and Don’ts


  • Keep paragraphs short.
  • Use bold sparingly.
  • Use action words.
  • Avoid exclamation points unless they are truly warranted.
  • Check to see that all links are relevant and working.


  • Use all uppercase characters, which can make content difficult to read.
  • Use italics unless grammatically necessary.
  • Underline text that is not a link.
  • Use the phrase “Click here.” Link phrases or keywords within the text.
  • Archive outdated content that is no longer useful or relevant.

SEO Basics

  • Write to your audience, not what you think search engines will be looking for.
  • Write short page titles for search-friendly URLs.
  • Don’t create large blocks of text that aren’t easy to skim.
  • Supplement text with visually appealing images and videos.
  • Maintain your pages.

Copy Editing and Proofreading

Our staff reviews all content for consistency, accuracy and compliance with Smith’s style. We copy edit content to improve clarity and readability. For more information regarding style and editing, please contact Eileen Dunn, communications editor.

Design and Layout

Smith-hosted websites comply with a standard look and feel based on Smith’s identity program.

Photography and Graphics

High-resolution photos offer the best quality (at least 72 dpi). Website visitors expect relevant photos that draw them into the site. Photos should tell Smith’s unique story in compelling ways. Avoid overused images, dull stock photos or images that are merely decoration.

The best images are:

  • properly cropped
  • focused (not blurry)
  • quickly loadable
  • fresh and timely

Measuring Effectiveness

Website analytics provide clues about how visitors are using your site. It’s important to regularly evaluate your site, revise and update content accordingly, and monitor performance. We can help.


  • Are pages taking too long to load?
  • Is the site weighed down by excess content or graphics?
  • Are all of the pages necessary?
  • Is there continuity between the text and images?
  • Are visitors looking at your videos and/or social media?

We look forward to working together on your website.