Website Stewardship and Standards
The Seattle Public Schools Website Stewardship and Standards aims to accomplish three things:
- Support the vision, goals, and values of Seattle Public Schools.
- Assist web editors in creating digital content that complies with SPS rules, standards, and legal requirements.
- Support user-centered SPS websites.
The Website Stewardship and Standards apply to the SPS public district website (www.seattleschools.org), all ‘official’ school websites, SPS staff website (mysps.seattleschools.org). It excludes the student information system (the Source), learning management systems (Schoology, SeeSaw), school-based and district EdTech systems (ex: Clever), social media channels, etc.
Students and Families Come First
The prioritized audiences for the public district websites (district and schools) are families and students. All content on these sites is created and maintained with their needs in mind. Staff-only resources should be published on MySPS or other staff digital platforms such as SharePoint.
Roles and Permissions
Each department or school is responsible for selecting and managing at least one web editor to maintain its web content. All principals and department managers are responsible to ensure that web editors who have access to their school website or department webpage follow the SPS Website Guidelines and Content Standards. Read more about the process to become a web editor.
Communications: When a school or department reaches out to the web team for help with getting a staff member editing access, the web team will share the following link which includes the procedure for getting web editing access
Web Stewardship: The SPS web services team enforces the content standards described in the Seattle Public Schools Website Stewardship and Standards. If the web team identifies pages that are not meeting content standards, they will make remediations or contact the school/department and ask them to make the changes.
Site editors are expected to follow these guidelines and any other direction given from the web team.
If an editor continues to ignore the web teams recommendations, the web team has the authority to remove that editor’s access.
Rationale: Everyone receives the same training and guidance because SPS is committed to providing consistent and predictable operations.
The SPS websites are the main communication channels for the district. It is important that the sites and pages have a consistent structure and standards to help families find the information they need quickly.
Know Your Audience One of the most important tasks for web editors is writing for your audience. The primary audience for the public district website and school websites are families and students. The audience for MySPS is staff.
Put yourself in their shoes. When creating and editing content for SPS websites, focus on what your primary audience wants to know. To help you do this, ask these questions:
- Who is my audience?
- What do they already know about this topic?
- What do they need to know?
- What questions will they have?
Address separate audiences separately. If content is specific for staff to perform their job duties, publish that content on MySPS and through staff communications channels. If one webpage attempts to address all audiences, it is difficult for the reader to find what information applies to them.
Address your audience. Consider the person reading the webpage. Although the information may affect a large group or entire community, you are speaking to one person at a time when they are reading a webpage. When your content reflects this, it will be more effective. The pronoun ‘you’ can help you address your reader. Instead of “Copies of the birth certificate must be provided;” say “You must submit copies of your student’s birth certificate.”
Neutral pronouns; avoid ‘he’ or ‘she.’ Use gender-inclusive language. ‘They’ or ‘them’ can be used as a singular pronoun for web content. Envisioning your audience is critical when writing and updating content on SPS webpages. Ask yourself, would your reader feel respected?
For ex: “Read with your child daily; ask them questions about the story.” Or “If a staff member is assigned to a bus, they will be responsible for …” Be sure the phrasing does not imply more than one person when discussing the singular.
Rationale: Seattle Public Schools strives to be a welcoming environment for all students, families, staff, and community. Inclusive writing on the web is one way we can help make everyone welcome and safe.
Contact Information and Resource Links
Students and families have shared the need to have consistent placement of contact information and resource links. Web editors should use the right side column to add this content.
Contact Information Standards When adding contact information to an SPS webpage, it should be in the following format:
Email Address:The entire email address should be visible to the user and it should be an active hyperlink. For example email@example.com. Do not insert the email address in text like this: Email webmaster.
Phone Number: Phone numbers should be written in the format: xxx-xxx-xxxx. Do not add parentheses around the area code.
Resource Link Standards
Link Text should be a descriptive call to action. It should let the person know where they are going and/or what type of information or resources they will find at that location. See Links standard for more information about link text.
When to open in a new tab: Links to another website or to a PDF document should open in a new tab. Links to another page on the same website should open in the same tab.
Always check your work: After editing a page, it is important to always check your work. View the live page to review the content and click on any new links that were created to ensure they are working as expected.
Rationale: Some users may not have their device set up to automatically open their email app after clicking on an email link. So, it is important that the full email address is displayed on the webpage so users can see it and manually type the email address into their email app, if needed.
People that use screen readers can use a keyboard shortcut to scan through a page and find all the links on a page. Each link needs to have unique and descriptive link text so that the user knows where each link will take them. Also, users do not need to be told to click on a link.
SPS is committed to providing consistent and predictable operations. Checking our work to ensure we only share working links and high-quality content with students/families helps fulfill that commitment.
Headings are critical to a webpage. Properly structured headings with meaningful key words support accessibility, promote search engine optimization, and help readers scan quickly find the answer to their question.
- Use a heading instead of ALL CAPS, Bold, or Underlines (none of these are communicated by screen reading software to emphasize the content).
- Headings are for headings only and should not be used to format other types of content to simply make it larger than standard paragraph text.
- Headings follow a proper hierarchy. See below.
Hierarchy: Headings should be used to break up different sections on a webpage or document.
The following hierarchy should be followed:
- Heading 1 (H1): the title of the webpage or document. Should only be used once. When creating a webpage, this is done automatically for the web editor. Should be direct and use as few words as possible. Ex: “Library”
- Heading 2 (H2): provides additional information and expand context from the H1. Should only be used once. Ex: “Rising Star Elementary Library”
- Heading 3 (H3): introduce sections on a page. All text introducing a section should use a heading format. All H3 relate directly to the overarching H2 for the page.
- Heading 4 (H4): (optional) may be used break up a section even further. All H4 relate directly to the H3 above.
Meaningful Headings: Headings should be specific and easy to understand. Headings help improve search results, so the words you use in your headings should contain words that site visitors might search.
- “School Supply List”
- “Broadview-Thomson Library”
- “2021-22 Student Handbook”
- “About Advanced Learning”
- “Start of School Forms”
A few examples of headings that are not helpful:
- “Welcome!” (not specific enough)
- “2021-22” (not specific enough)
- “MORE INFORMATION” (not specific enough, never use all caps)
Rationale: Headings create appropriate hierarchy to improve readability for visual and non-visual readers. They also help the reader scan the page quickly to find the information they need. Using proper hierarchy and meaningful headings will also improve accessibility and search results.
Link text should be a descriptive call to action. It should let the person know where they are going and/or what type of information or resources they will find at that location.
Examples of descriptive link text:
- Visit the Adams Elementary PTA website.
- Apply for internal job opportunities.
- Learn more about state graduation requirements on the SPS website.
Link text should never be vague, for example:
When to open in a new tab: Links to another website or to a PDF document should open in a new tab. Links to another page on the same website and email links should open in the same tab.
Always check your work After creating a new link on a webpage, it is important to always check your work. View the live page and then click on the new link that was created to ensure the link is working as expected.
Rationale: People that use screen readers can use a keyboard shortcut to scan through a page and find all the links on a page. Each link needs to have unique and descriptive link text so that the user knows where each link will take them. Also, users do not need to be told to click on a link.
SPS is committed to providing consistent and predictable operations. Checking our work to ensure we only share working links and high-quality communications with students/families helps fulfill that commitment.
Placeholders and “Under Construction”
When a page is published and visible to site visitors, it should not be blank or have placeholder text like “Under Construction” or “More information coming soon.”
If content is not finalized then the webpage should stay in draft mode, hidden from site visitors. A page should only be published when there is useful information for site visitors.
If the web services team finds a blank page, it will be reverted to a draft and hidden from site visitors.
Rationale SPS is committed to providing consistent and predictable operations. Linking to pages that do not have any helpful information, is not fulfilling this commitment. Families have limited time to find the information they need. Don’t make their experience challenging and unpleasant by sending them to blank pages.
Readability and Grade Level Standards
To make information as accessible as possible, SPS aims to publish content that is written at about an 8th grade reading level. Reading level is determined by several factors including word complexity and sentence length.
As you are drafting or revising web content, find the longer, multi-syllable words and replace with simpler terms. Break long sentences into smaller more direct statements. Avoid or explain educational jargon, expressions used by specific groups that may be difficult for others to understand.
Rationale: Making information easy to understand is a critical aspect of providing access to all SPS audiences. Some webpages include information that is critical to help families and student make decisions about education. It is also better for those whose native language isn’t English those who may utilize automatic translation tools to translate the information into another language.
Wordy, dense webpages create a barrier to information for visitors. Long, complex sentences with multiple phrases and clauses create confusion and frustration.
Aim for paragraphs that are 70 words or less. A webpage with 300-700 words is a good length for the majority of web content. Keep webpages short and direct. You can reduce word content by removing welcome-type messages. Most readers will ignore this as filler.
Meaningful headlines with keywords will help readers scan a page to pick out the information they are looking for.
Use bulleted lists as a way to break up dense content. Be sure to start the list with key words rather than repeating words. Bulleted lists provide items without implying that items go in a specific order.
Make webpages scannable by including:
- Headlines with keywords.
- Lists can help readers find items or points.
- Avoid jargon and technical terms.
- Edit! Edit! Edit! Work to reduce word counts on webpages to 300-700 words.
Rationale: Web user experience research shows us that readers scan webpages to find keywords that will help answer their question or understand the main point of the content. Web visitors do not read everything. They visit SPS websites to learn processes, find links to other resources, and answer questions. Concise content is easier to translate and ensure accessibility.
- Headings and paragraphs should be left aligned on webpages and documents.
- Bulleted and numbered lists should always be left-aligned.
Rationale: Left aligned text is easier to read because each new line starts in the same place along the left side of the page.
Centered text can be very difficult for a reader’s eyes to track because each new line starts in a different place.