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DHHS Redesign Project
Welcome to the fourth edition of DHHS Webmaster Notes.
- Webmaster Notes, Third Edition, January 2008 (Posting PDFs, Governance Documents, Validation, New DHHS Logo Gallery, New Site Map, Use "New" Website Address)
- Webmaster Notes, Second Edition, February 2007 (search tool, ITS migration, accessible PDFs)
- Webmaster Notes, First Edition, October 2006 (website redesign project, URLs, new registry of websites)
Web Content Managers View New Website, Discuss Website Certification
On May 23, 2008, the DHHS Web Content Managers, with one representative from each division or office, met as a group for the first time. They viewed the redesigned DHHS website, due to be unveiled this summer. For more information on the redesigned site, look to the upcoming Employee Update, which should be distributed later this week.
The content managers also discussed "site certification." Certification is a way to ensure the quality of a website. The group agreed to two new practices for all DHHS public websites: 1. monthly broken link checks by webmasters, and 2. annual content review by content experts.
See the next two articles for more about link checking.
Monthly Cleanup will Improve our Sites
Cleaning up broken links on websites is a primary responsibility of a webmaster, but DHHS webmasters have been at a disadvantage.
The configuration of the ITS server makes it difficult to use link checkers to find broken links. The server identifies a custom error page as a valid page, and thus all broken links that serve up that page are not found by the link checker. Links to broken pages outsides the DHHS site are found, but broken links to pages within the DHHS site are not identified as broken.
We now have a solution, but it depends on who you are and how your website is hosted.
1. Everyone: Obtain a link checker. Xenu is one that is easy to use, works quickly and well, is respected by many webmasters, and is free, but you may pick another one if you prefer. Work with your network administrator, or submit a ticket to DHHS IT Customer Support Center via phone (919-855-3200) or firstname.lastname@example.org to have it placed on your computer. (Some Xenu tips are published below.)
2A. If your site is hosted at ITS and your website begins with the URL www.ncdhhs.gov: The link checker will only work if the custom error page is deleted from the server. Lois Nilsen will delete the page from the server on the third Thursday of each month, so on June 19 and July 17 (and each third Thursday thereafter), you can check your site(s).
2B. If your site is hosted at ITS and your website begins with the URL www.ncdhhs.gov and you have your own custom error page (i.e., DSS, MHDDSAS, DMA), the link checker will only work if both the department and the division custom error pages are deleted from the production server. (Don’t delete it from your test server!) On the third Thursday of each month, Lois Nilsen will delete the departmental error page. Delete your own error page, and run your link checker. Don’t forget to upload your custom error page after you’re done.
2C. If your site is hosted at ITS and your website does not begin with the URL www.ncdhhs.gov: You can use a link checker with no problem if you do not have a custom error page. If you do have a custom error page, delete it from the server before checking the site. Don’t forget to upload your custom error page after you’re done.
2D. If your website is NOT hosted at ITS: Download Xenu or another link checker and check your site, and repair your broken links.
3. Provide a monthly link checking report to your division or office Web Content Manager. Simply copy the "broken links by page" information," place it in a Word File, and add a date at the top of the page. Your Web Content Manager is listed on the DHHS Website Registry (XLS).
Content managers understand that the first couple of reports may contain a lot of broken links. However, the quality of our websites will be greatly enhanced by regular site cleanup.
Some tips for Xenu
If you choose to use Xenu for your link checker, here are a few tips:
1. Go to File > Check URL. You’ll get “Xenu’s Starting Point.”
2. In the top field, fill in your home page.
3. Place a check in the box labeled: “check external links.”
4. Under More Options (bottom left of the screen), include number of page levels (the default is 999). Three is good for a small site. Four or five for a larger site.
5. Press "OK" on the sleuthing options screen and "OK" on the starting point screen. Xenu runs its link checker. It should only take a few minutes.
6. Xenu asks if you want a report. Check "Yes."
7. For the “remote orphan check,” choose "Cancel."
8. Xenu gives you all your broken links by order of link, and by order of page. The page order is the most useful. Now you can go fix your broken links.
What to Do when a Scanned PDF is Huge
We all know that a PDF created from the original program (e.g. Microsoft Word) is the best way to go. The file size is smaller, and the file has a chance of being accessible for screen readers. But sometimes all you have is a piece of paper, without a file.
If you're handed a PDF document to post on the web that is very large (anything over 3 MB) and it's a scanned document, explain to the requestor that the file size is prohibitive to much of our audience. Ask them to have the document rescanned, using the following guidelines:
Scan the documents at 100 percent actual size or original size (8.5" x 11") using a resolution of 72 dpi. If 72 dpi is not a resolution setting on the piece of equipment they are using, they should use the lowest possible setting, which might be something like 100x100 on a copier/scanner.
Another best practices for PDF: every PDF on the web should have a title tag. If you have Acrobat Standard or Professional, it just takes a minute to do. Use the document's actual title, and follow the "title" guidance in chapter 1 of the style manual.