Web Standards for DHHS Public Websites
The intent is to provide minimum standards and a minimum level of consistency for all N.C. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) websites that are publicly available. Policy is provided in “Public Websites in DHHS”). Editorial standards, including file format recommendations and more information on URLs, are provided in the DHHS Website Style Guide. For web application standards, see DHHS Web Standards for Web Applications (pending finalization).
This applies to all North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) World Wide Web public websites (that is, not password-protected application websites).
A. New Websites
Before a new website is created for the department or any division/service/program in the department, a request must be made by the division director to the Office of Public Affairs, per departmental policy. In most cases, it will be more appropriate to integrate the new website material into an existing website rather than to create a new website.
For any new website, content and a basic website plan should be reviewed by Public Affairs before investing extensive resources.
Requests for new URLs must be cleared with the Office of Public Affairs.
B. Web Governance
Every division and office shall have a single Web Content Manager who oversees the content of all division websites on behalf of the division director and who collaborates with the Office of Public Affairs. For larger divisions, Content Coordinators at the section or program level may be required.
The Office of Public Affairs is the final signoff on all web content. All new content should be reviewed by the appropriate public information officer. For revisions, individual divisions and offices must negotiate with their public information officers on the level and type of revisions that require review.
Review procedures are spelled out in chapter 1 of the Website Style Guide.
C. Web Registry
The Office of Public Affairs maintains the official website registry for the department. A “website” is defined as any distinct portion of the web with a unique navigation structure and format, and usually a unique URL. All DHHS public websites must be registered. The webmaster and content manager for each website are recorded. For a copy of the Web Registry, go to www.ncdhhs.gov/redesignproject/ .
D. Publishing Language
Current websites should adhere to a recognized industry standard publishing language and validate using the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) validator (http://validator.w3.org/). Cascading style sheets should validate to http://jigsaw.w3.org/css-validator/ . Any new websites should follow the current W3C standard for markup and publishing language.
DHHS websites must be compatible with any browser that comprises at least 2 percent of the traffic to the DHHS home website. As of July 2007, that means Internet Explorer versions 6 and 7, Firefox version 2 and above, and Netscape 7 and above.
The best viewing of web materials for much of our audiences is on an 800 by 600 pixel screen. Websites should be designed to accommodate those users. A best practice is to use a liquid layout that stretches to the current user's window size (that is, avoid frozen layouts that are always the same size), especially to accommodate 1024x768 as well.
The Department strives to have DHHS web pages that are accessible to persons with disabilities. See the departmental policy, “Web Accessibility for People with Disabilities.” Some coding basics include ALT tags for all images, and using heading tags in order (that is, not skipping from a Header 1 to a Header 3).
The W3C website has a List of Web Accessibility Evaluation Tools available at www.w3.org/WAI/ER/tools/, many of them free.
Acrobat documents need to be made accessible as well if they are placed on the web. Adobe Acrobat Professional has extensive tools for ensuring for accessibility. If a document cannot be made accessible, an accessible format must also be offered.
The DHHS search tool will be placed on every website in the department, with the words “Search DHHS.” If it is impractical to place the search on every web page of any given website, it should be placed on the home page and top navigation pages.
I. META Tags
The use of the title tag and keywords in meta tags will enhance the search capabilities for all DHHS web pages, both within commercial search engines and within the DHHS search engine. Page description tags will enhance search results, since paragraphs written as page descriptions appear in the search results. Webmasters must work with the writers of web page content to create meaningful lists of keywords and page descriptions, especially for key pages in a website.
For division and office websites, the Title tag should follow this convention: “NC Acronym: Page Title.” For example:
- NC DPH: Asthma Contacts
- NC DSS: Work First Home Page
J. Department and Division Identification
All DHHS public websites will have clear departmental identification on all web pages. The DHHS logo and the words “Department of Health and Human Services” must appear together, and the logo must be a link to the DHHS home page at www.ncdhhs.gov.
Logos should be of good quality and not pixilated, distorted, or skewed. The Office of Public Affairs graphics staff can assist with logos.
All DHHS websites that exist within a division must also include the name of the applicable division and a link to that division’s home page.
K. Page Maintenance
Links should be validated and corrected on all pages of a website on a regular basis (monthly is a good practice). Link checkers such as Xenu (www.snapfiles.com/get/xenulink.html) can assist.
M. Streaming Media
Streaming media must follow all accessibility guidelines, including captioning for the deaf and descriptions of action for the blind. In general, information provided for the general public and those we serve should be provided in pages that require no special downloads.
No DHHS employee shall maintain a blog that promotes their official capacity in the office, division or department, or provides any advice or guidance on behalf of the department, unless it is first approved by the division director and the Director of Public Affairs.
O. Electronic Customer Surveys
All electronic surveys placed on the web must follow the DHHS policy “Electronic Surveys.”
A customer survey on a website must always be voluntary. Do not make your site visitors perform a survey in order to view any page in the site. The option to not participate must always be highly visible and easy to choose.