Working together for standards The Web Standards Project

Web sites in a university environment are, more often than not, micro-managed within individual faculties, colleges and administrative units. It stands to reason; each department is often responsible for their own content.

However, it is a common problem that resources are not evenly spread across the different areas of an academic environment such that all webmasters and web content providers have a common level of knowledge in order to undertake their responsibilities. As a result, lack of standardisation from technological, content and stylistic standpoints ensues. From the perspective of a student visiting a university Web site and searching for information across different academic areas, inconsistency in the presentation and delivery of information is more than likely to provide a less than satisfactory experience.

How can this be addressed? In the case of the Pennsylvania State University, interested parties, including Rose Pruyne, attacked the root of the problem with the formation of the Web Standards Users Group.

It started out as a vehicle for those of us who were interested in the technologies to swap information. It wasn’t too long before we were working with Penn State’s administration to revise its Web policy to include standards/accessibility compliance.

Currently, Rose also chairs the Content Management Best Practices Group.

Content is one of the weakest aspects of a lot of sites. Often behind this bad content is the tendency for organizations to think of the Web as an afterthought to print media. The process is to spend a lot of time and money developing and mailing print publications and then turning around and dumping this content wholesale onto the Web.

How effective can user groups be in a higher education environment? What kind of impact can such groups look to achieve? Rose Pruyne certainly has no shortage of experience in managing user groups and providing training; in this interview, the WaSP EduTF asks Rose to share her stories.

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