Web Application Interface Guidelines and
Use appropriate server-side technology.
A wide range of server-side technologies
are available. Use the ones that meet your needs and that help you
comply with the other guidelines.
Client-side technology should be compliant with the
W3C Document Object Model.
Complying with the W3C DOM generally means that pages should consist of
well-formed code that validates properly against W3C standards
Web technologies are largely based on open standards
defined and maintained by W3C. Adherence to those standards
insures that our applications will work with the widest
range of software, including editors, validators, browsers,
and assistive technologies.
This approach also provides a good foundation for any additional
Select and write your HTML to a specific W3C schema. Declare
which schema you are using in a DOCTYPE statement.
Avoid coding practices deprecated by W3C.
Separate content and presentation by using logical markup
Check your pages with the W3C validators (HTML validator, CSS validator.)
3. Avoid unnecessary restriction of the user's
Browser technology allows the user to set a default
text-size, adjust the width and height of the browser
window, and even read in a custom stylesheet. These
configuration choices help meet personal needs.
Conversely, an individual may not be aware of the current browser settings
or how other choices of settings (such as
display screen-area) affect how Web pages appear.
The objective is to design your application so that it
works across the widest range of possible configurations
that the user may be using, whether by choice or chance.
"Flex" designs, which adjust to whatever ratio of browser
window height and width the user chooses and that allow the
user to choose the browser text-size most appropriate for
their needs, are preferred over fixed designs.
Design your application so its minimal functional screen size is
600x800 pixels or less when the browser text-size is set to
the medium (or default) setting. It can work in larger
areas if available, but it is desirable that it work in the minimum
area of 600x800. Try not to make large monitor sizes, higher
display-screen-area settings or very small browser
text-size prerequisites for using your application.
Minimize the use of fixed dimensions, such as for tables. Use
relative dimensions when possible.
Use relative font sizes. However, do not specify a
font-size of less than 80% to
avoid unreadable text on high-display screen-area
settings and small browser text-size settings.
4. Coordinate hardware and software requirements
with departmental support staff.
Often, the person using a Web application is not the person
who installs and updates the software on their computer. Departmental
support staff often instruct staff to avoid do-it-yourself
modifications of their software.
The person may be relying on the
or they may be using a
networked computer. For these and other
reasons, the audience for an application may choose not to
make the software changes the developer would prefer they make.
- The application design process should include an evaluation
of the range of hardware and software users
- Determine through testing the specific browser vendors
and versions that reliably support the application.
In particular, test your application on
current UWICK and Nebula
- Do not assume that because the application works
on the current version of a browser it will work
on the next version. Test it.
For applications with a general audience (such as
students, faculty, staff, or alumni) requirements for specific
software or settings should be kept to a minimum.
Non-authenticated applications should work for the
widest possible range of clients that may access the
Authenticated applications by definition will only be
used by browsers capable of secure connections
(version 4 or later).
- Clearly state restrictions, if any, on all entry pages
of the application.
For an application with a specific, limited, stable, and known
audience, requirements can be more restrictive, but only with advance review and
approval of support staff and application users.
- Again, state restrictions on all entry pages
of the application.
- Think strategically. Even if it provides
useful functionality, an
overly restrictive approach can be a trap. As the
application succeeds and its use grows, it may be
necessary to rebuild it for the larger, more diverse
- Applications should work on both Macintosh and
Windows computers. Requiring users to replace their
computers to use your application can be a major
- Be aware that labs financed by PIs on campus frequently save
money by using open source software, usually Linux (UNIX). To keep
applications accessible by this
constituency, avoid using Windows-specific formats. For example, instead
of Excel use the more
generic CSV format.
It is UW policy to provide reasonable access for the
handicapped in all of its services.
Attention to accessibility insures that an otherwise
capable person is not prevented from doing his or her work
by an inadvertant design choice by the application developer.
Web technologies have many features built in
accessibilty. Simply using these technologies as they are
designed to be used will go a long way toward making your
All federal Web sites must now comply with Section 508 of the
Rehabilitation Act. While Section 508 does not apply
directly to the UW, it does set a standard that UW
applications are likely to be compared to. If you are
developing an application that will be shared with public
funded higher education or the federal government, it will
probably have to comply with Section 508 before it will
be acceptable to such organizations.
See Making UW
Web Sites Accessible To Everyone for in-depth
information about accessible Web design.
6. Look, feel, and functionality should be
consistent within an application.
Consistency allows users to improve their skills as they
use the application, applying lessons they learned in one
area elsewhere in the application.
Use standard C&C application
If you develop additional conventions, document them in a
style guide for your application.
Before inventing a new convention, check with other
application developers to see if an appropriate one
7. Coordinate design so users can move from
one application to another without changing configurations.
Users of UW applications often want to move quickly between
one application and another. Unnecessary variation in
designs and inconsistency in terminology and graphics is a
burden on the user.
Application developers should keep in touch as they make
design decisions. Regular meetings, email lists, and good
project documentation help to share design concepts and
8. Help users understand their role in security
and privacy aspects of the application.
The UW has major legal responsibilities to insure the
security of our systems and
the privacy of the information
Help users understand the role they play in security, such
as how to properly and completely terminate a secure
Users are very sensitive to how information they enter into
a Web application will be handled. Reasonable assurances
that their privacy will be protected are helpful, but do
not promise more than we can give.
At each point-of-entry into an authenticating
application, include instructions on how to properly
terminate the secure session.
Develop a privacy statement appropriate to your
Writing a Privacy Statement guidelines.
Be careful not to promise more than the UW can
deliver. Because we are a public institution, much
information is available to the public on request.
Even when protected by specific laws (such as patient
information), the information can still often be
obtained by legal procedures such as discovery
motions and subpoenas.
On any page where the user enters information, provide a
link to the privacy statement. If a page is part of a
linked set of pages for entering information, the link
only needs to be on the first page in the set, but it
should be on all pages that are entry points into the
The link to the privacy statement should be near where
the person begins entering information (not out of sight
at the bottom of the page). The link can be in a small