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LibGuides Standards and Best Practices

This guide will help you create a usable, readable and well designed guide for the University of New Hampshire. It lists standards, best practices, and guidelines to follow when creating and updating guides or webpages.

Writing for the Web

Users will skim and select content on web pages in an F-shaped pattern. Make your guide content easy to read with these tips:

  • Write clearly and simply.
  • Less is more! Aim for action content and avoid prose. 
  • Put the most important information at the top.
  • Avoid long paragraphs of content. Use lists.
  • Break up long lists. Lists with more than 7 items appear long and may not get read.
  • Link to denser material deeper in the page.

Tone

  • Use a personal tone in writing.
  • Focus on using an active voice rather than passive.
    • active voice: The library provides study spaces.
    • passive voice: Study Spaces are provided at the library.
  • Use pronouns. The user is You. The library is We.
    • "We provide study spaces."
    • "We'll help you find the most relevant resources."
  • Avoid jargon. Use words the user will use.
    • Bad: "The link resolver will direct you to intermediary pages with direct links to publisher and vendor-provided sites with pdf or html versions of articles."
    • Good: "Click 'Check for Full Text" to get full-text articles."

LibGuides or Guides or Web Pages?

"LibGuides" refers only to the web-based software package by SpringShare. We agreed to use the term "Research Guides" to refer to the collective of guides we have produced together. The general term "guides" is a category that refers to librarian-created web pages that are aids for subject- or course-based research; in this category there are "subject guides,", "course guides," "portal pages," and "how-to guides." The rest of the site is composed simply of web pages.

It is important internally that we don't confuse LibGuides (the package) with the pages created with that package, and important in communicating with library patrons that "LibGuides" not be used at all. (Think of "LibGuides" as being akin to "Microsoft Word." You would never refer to a document created in MS Word this way: "Just read that MS Word I sent you.")

Are they called Tabs or Pages?

For consistency's sake, call them pages. SpringShare calls them pages and so do users.

Additional Resources

The following sites contain resources for effective usablity and writing for the web.

The following are a small survey of University best-practice guides:

Credits

We gratefully credit Jesse Martinez and the Boston College librarians for permission to use their LibGuides Standards guide as the basis for our own