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Website Presentation: University Guidelines and Protocols

Q: What University guidelines does the Teaching Center follow?
A: The Teaching Center’s web presence is guided by these University standards and guidelines:

  • The Pitt Writing Style Manual, which is a combination of AP Style and our own marketing communications norms.
  • University Web Standards established by the Office of University Communications & Marketing.
  • Living Our Brand, the enduring platform that defines how Pitt’s unique institutional identity is presented to the world.

Website Maintenance: Content, Construction, Creation

Q: What is WordPress and why do we use it?
A: WordPress is the content management system we use to build and maintain the Teaching Center website. WordPress is used by approximately 43 percent of all websites worldwide to deliver and manage content. The WordPress platform provides us with flexibility to effectively feature our services, support, and resources. The theme we use for our website is called Total.

Q: What accessibility checkers and tools do we use on our website?
A: The University provides units with websites access to Siteimprove. Siteimprove is a cloud-based software that crawls websites and reports back on accessibility issues based on the Web Content and Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, levels A, AA, and AAA and quality assurance issues such as broken links and potential misspellings. WCAG is developed in cooperation with individuals and organizations around the world, with a goal of providing a single shared standard for web content accessibility that meets the needs of individuals, organizations, and governments internationally. The Teaching Center website works in conjunction with the Office for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion to achieve their goals for WCAG compliance.

Q: What is SensusAccess?
A: The University of Pittsburgh has partnered with SensusAccess to offer a file converter tool that makes inaccessible documents (such as Word or PDF files) into more accessible media (such as searchable PDFs, audio MP3 files, Braille, or e-text). Pitt faculty can use this service free of service to convert materials for their classes to more accessible formats.

Q: How is the website’s primary navigation configured?
A: The primary function of the Teaching Center website is to deliver information to our audience about our resources, services, and support in the most optimal, logical way for the end user. We want to construct our web presence based on critical details like user need, user activity, user preference, relevance and timeliness of information, etc., and not based on our own organizational infrastructure. We analyze trends in user activity, evaluate page views and review traffic flow with goals of optimizing ease of experience, search capability, and page functionality.

Q: How do we characterize our web pages and the content that goes onto them?
A: Static web pages are informational in nature, are found on the primary navigation menus of the website, and are designed to inform our audience of the services and support we provide. These pages engage users to interact with us directly through email, phone, web forms, etc. Static pages differ from resource pages, which typically contain instructional, sequential, or directional ‘how to’ information that assists web users with teaching and learning activities. While resource pages do contain information, consider this example:

  • A static page will inform an instructor about how to get help with Canvas;
  • A resource page will guide the instructor through building and deploying a specific tool in Canvas.

Additionally, our website houses a variety of featured news articles, our adaptation of the blog concept. These articles allow us to publish new information to the website quickly and flexibly. Featured news articles typically describe a recent development or happening, an important announcement, a service update, and can be an in-depth story about a Teaching Center success or collaboration. They can be published in a variety of ways and places on our website. Articles can be long-form and include various resources and hyperlinks to different content.

Q: What is the Resources for Teaching hub?
A: The Resources for Teaching hub is a content repository containing a wide variety of resource pages. This area of the website is designed for web users seeking instructional resources that can immediately be used in their teaching and learning activities. Pages in the hub can also be featured on the home page (when appropriate).

Q: What type of content goes into the carousel on the home page?
A: Outreach updates the home page carousel with timely information on a weekly basis. This process typically starts with the weekly newsletter, which goes out every Friday afternoon. Information from the newsletter that we can promote and direct readers to with one click often goes into the carousel. This is also where we place high-profile, University announcements and information to maximize visibility.

Q: How do I submit a web request?
A: All web requests should be submitted through the Teaching Center’s online website request form. Please alert your supervisor of your web request before submission.

Q: After I submit a web request, what happens next?
A: Web requests that enter the outreach queue are processed according to multiple variables, such as size/quantity of the edits and timeline for completion. All web requests will be formatted to adhere to Pitt’s writing style, web standards, and brand management guidelines.

Q: How are images and graphics selected?
A: The images that are used on web pages vary based on the content and context of the page.

  • Most static pages will contain a featured image that (i) aligns with University branding, standards, and guidelines, (ii) reflects the information on the page whenever possible, and (iii) conveys that the University of Pittsburgh supports diversity, equity, and inclusion. These photos will be positioned at the top of the page and will usually be limited to one picture.
  • Similarly, one image is needed for featured news articles so that the page renders appropriately in multiple locations on the website and on mobile. Additional images can be inserted into the body of the article to supplement the composition.
  • Resources page designed for the content hub may contain a photo, but often do not.
  • For team member profile pages, all personnel should have a professional photo displayed on their staff directory page.
  • It’s important to note that any image/graphic that’s conveying information must contain ALT text in order to comply with accessibility guidelines, so please submit ALT text for any graphics at the time of the web request.

Q: What type of criteria should be included in the team member profile page?
A: Team profile pages should contain a professional photo and one paragraph with the following information:

  • Your vitals: Name, title, contact information
  • Your scope: Responsibilities and duties at the Teaching Center
  • Your achievements: Accomplishments at Pitt or elsewhere in your career
  • Your path: Any previous work experience, educational credentials, or extra-curricular work that you’d like to share

Q: Are we allowed to link out to products that are often recommended for Teaching Center clients?
A: University Communications encourages us to not recommend personal purchases to web users unless the University has an official agreement in place for that product. Stakeholders/authors must provide, when possible, links to neutral sites describing the product being recommended. In the case of a book, for example, rather than providing a link to an Amazon or publisher’s site/page to the title, a link to that book in the ULS catalog is more appropriate. Or for specific pieces of equipment, list the details of the product that users can search for on their own as opposed to linking out to a product and/or purchase page.

Q: How are intake forms managed on our website?
A: There are three primary platforms being utilized for intake forms on the Teaching Center website: Wufoo, Airtable, and Qualtrics. For Airtable and/or Qualtrics forms, it is our standard to link out to those intake forms in a separate tab. This is due to our inability to get the forms to fit within the overall look, feel, standards, guidelines, and branding of the website (lack of customization available). For Wufoo forms, our standard is to embed the form into a web page on the website, as we’re able to customize the form to have it fit within the overall look, feel, standards, guidelines, and branding of the website.

Website Management: Best Practices

General Principles

  • Outreach will work with every requestor in a collaborative dialogue. We will help you with design and make recommendations on fonts, font sizes, colors, layouts, etc., to ensure that our webpages have a consistent look and feel to them, while also complying with University guidelines.
  • Outreach generally provides mock ups of new pages and featured news articles for review before publication.
  • Always provide text equivalents for any graphical content submitted for the web. Examples:
    • Provide ALT text for any images or graphics that convey information.
    • Label images as “decorative” if the photo is not conveying information.
  • Use headings for your document submissions. These assist with navigational flow on a page (heading, level 1 subheading, level 2 subheading, etc.)

Photos and Imagery

  • Images should be submitted in the largest resolution possible. Images that are too small, distorted, or are flagged for accessibility issues are not useable. In these instances, outreach will contact the requestor to assist identifying a replacement photo.
  • Outreach will crop, retouch, and resize images as necessary.


As leaders in the University’s efforts to demonstrate accessibility practices, it is imperative that we are always mindful of web accessibility standards.

  • Text placed over a background image is not accessible.
  • Images with dominant red-and-green color combinations are not accessible to web users who are color blind.
  • Tables are consistently identified as inaccessible content. If tables are a necessary part of the content being submitted, outreach will work with the requestor on a case-by-case basis to assist with the table creation.
  • Submit Word documents instead of PDFs whenever possible. Text files like Word documents can be used as a basis for static pages, resource pages, and features news articles in Acrobat Pro or through SensusAccess.

Hyperlinking to Other Web Resources

A screen reader attempting to articulate item (b) will become incomprehensible and likely create confusion for the web user. In all cases, we should strive to use intelligible language in all URLs.

  • Whether we’re linking to multimedia resources elsewhere or placing the resources on our own webpages, we should make every effort to provide closed captioning or transcripts in every instance.
  • Team members should alert outreach if they locate a hyperlink that has changed or is no longer active and presenting a 404 Error message [or equivalent]. Similarly, Outreach will contact a team member if a link on a particular page is no longer functioning. In either instance, both sides should seek to identify a replacement.
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