With over 5,000 employees spanning the entire province of British Columbia, the task of organizing BC Hydro’s Intranet effort is both massive and critical. As part of meeting that challenge, Steve Whan, BC Hydro’s Corporate Webmaster, produced several documents to help guide the process. Below, he shares the company’s key guidelines and standards for the design and subsequent creation of Intranet Web pages.
The internal Enterprise Web service was established as an alternative means for providing access to and distribution of business information. The Web service utilizes the enterprise data network. All workstations in the company that have standard connectivity to the enterprise data network can access Intranet web services. An Intranet web server is also provided as a prototyping tool for information and web content that may eventually reside on the External web server(s).
When web content will be appearing on both Intranet (internal) and Internet (external) pages, the Intranet policies and guidelines will take precedence. For example, large images and many graphical elements may be acceptable on our Internet pages, but they would not be acceptable for pages accessed over our enterprise data network.
The Web can potentially be utilized for many types of applications at a minimum of cost to the content provider. It is important to complete the approval process so that the cost and benefits of deploying the application or web page can be accumulated. These benefits will be used to support future expansions of the infrastructure.
Once departmental/SBU approval has been received, web page development must still follow corporate content guidelines. Pages must either follow these guidelines or receive an exemption from the Office of the CIO.
The following content guidelines will apply to all Intranet web content providers and web based application developers. These guidelines will allow for efficient use of our network resources so that everyone can take advantage of these services. In addition, using a standard template and following the approved Style Guide will ensure that users will view consistently designed Web pages.
Users connect to the Enterprise Data Network at BC Hydro which runs at a minimum of 28.8K bits per second. While network bandwidth can be upgraded to meet demand, there are upper limits. Many sites cannot be upgraded beyond 56Kbps due to site locations. Large files of data moving through this network will negatively impact all users (every application from e-mail through to mainframe access shares the same pipe). Because of this, there will initially be a number of data constraints placed on content providers and application developers.
The design goal at this time is for the user to be reading the page within 10 seconds using a 28.8K line, therefore:
No audio or video clips unless they are loaded directly from the local workstation. Client-side image maps should be used instead of server-side image maps (and only if there is a business justification for using a map in the first place). Graphics and images should be set-up as a thumbnail sketch in the source (max. 2000 bytes) with a link to the larger file (max. 30k bytes). The size of the larger image should be specified so that the user can make a decision to view it or not. The maximum recommended number of thumbnails or images is seven per page. The total page size including text, thumbnails and images should not exceed 30K. Any image or graphic element must have a business purpose for being in the document (e.g. a flow chart or process diagram). Graphics used to add colour or additional design elements to a page are not acceptable because they will directly impact network performance. Graphics and images should be produced using the following preferential order:
- ..GIF (89A interlaced)
- ..GIF (89A non-interlaced)
- ..JPG (preferred for photorgaphs)
- ..GIF (87 standard)
Textual information in documents should be limited to 7K (equals about six pages on the screen) in order to speed loading and minimize the impact on the network. Whenever possible, pages and documents should be broken up into chapters or sections accessible from a menu or index screen. Studies have shown that users will only go beyond two screens of information 10% of the time anyway. Images from the /images sub-directory should be used for logos, buttons etc. instead of creating personal versions. This will take advantage of images stored in the browser’s cache. Information > 6 months old will be considered “stale” and the owner will be contacted to verify the validity of the application or information. Information that is found to be out of date or inaccurate will be removed from access until it is updated. “No information is better than wrong information”. The content provider is responsible for guaranteeing the currency and accuracy of the information.
- The first web page will contain the following information in the
area: primary contact/owner (phone number & a ‘mailto:’ if they have e-mail and department/SBU name) date last revised or updated (full date format should be used e.g. May 12, 1998) a standard link back to the InfoPage home page
- The approved Style Guide is the one created by Rick Levine of Sun Microsystems, Inc. (http://www.sun.com/styleguide/). This document has stood the test of time and content providers and application developers should use this as their basis for design decisions.
- All web pages should have the same look and feel wherever possible, so sample templates and style guide files will be available on-line.
About the author:
Steve Whan is Corporate WebMaster for BC Hydro and can be reached at (604) 515-8674 or at email@example.com.