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Web Application Interface Guidelines and Recommendations

1. 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.

2. 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 and schemas.

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 client-side functionality, including Javascript, Java applets, or Flash.


3. Avoid unnecessary restriction of the user's configuration.

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.


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 UWICK software or they may be using a Nebula 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.


5. Pay attention to accessibility issues.

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 to enable accessibilty. Simply using these technologies as they are designed to be used will go a long way toward making your application accessible.

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.


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.


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 they contain.

Help users understand the role they play in security, such as how to properly and completely terminate a secure session.

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.


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