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 Sustainable Development Communications Network

Flexibility in Applying Guidelines

By Ann Tothill, Association for Progressive Communications (APC)
May 2001

If your organization is a large one, with more than one section involved in Web site development and maintenance, if the organization offers different types of site (for example, portals, advocacy sites or online training sites), or if you are involved in developing Web projects collaboratively with other organizations, your Web style guide should make provision for diversity within a general organizational framework. In all cases, decide which components of your overall Web guidelines must be adhered to—and these may span both marketing and usability concerns—and which require greater flexibility.

Your guidelines should also be flexible enough to accommodate changing needs over time, whether due to new organizational requirements or to changes in technology.

Diversity within the organization

A large or distributed organization running a variety of projects may want to devolve responsibility for project-specific Web sites to the project itself:

  • decide whether all pages on your organization's Web site must follow a prescribed formula exactly, or whether projects will have some autonomy as long as they follow general guidelines such as using the organization's colour scheme and logo and navigation conventions.
  • develop either a set of templates for different levels of Web pages to be used by all projects, or a toolkit containing, for example, your organization's logo in a variety of sizes and a standard navigation bar which can be included in the project's own design.

Different types of site and site content

A single organizational template is unlikely to be able to serve all types of product and content types. For example, the requirements of an interactive training site might differ from those of an advocacy site. Web guidelines should make provision for this diversity.

Collaborative projects

If you work collaboratively on projects with other organizations, your Web guidelines should make provision for the development of collaborative sites. Visual design and navigation principles serve both to assist your users, and to brand your product. While a collaborative Web site should always follow good design principles, some compromise on branding is necessary.

Identify those elements of your organization's image which must be included in collaborative Web sites, and at what level. For example, you might require that some version of your organization's logo appear on all pages of the collaborative site, or only on the main page.

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