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Web Design Policy

Name of Author
Adopted 2007-xx-xx
This document has been seen before in a number of revisions. This one is dated 2007-10-17 and old material has been removed.


  1. By means of our web content, we present the UCLA Mathematics Department to the global community and to our internal users professionally, attractively, and in a manner that demonstrates our status as a premier Mathematics Department.

  2. We present our message while flexibly accommodating the needs of non-mainstream users, such as:

  3. We design our pages and policies to reduce, not increase, the amount of work needed to get content onto the web attractively and coherently.

  4. We are flexible enough in our policies to accommodate unusual presentation needs, yet strict enough in adherence to avoid clutter, user confusion and expensive maintenance.


These goals can be translated to the following normative statements:

  1. All pages created by the Mathematics Computing Group shall conform to the applicable HTML standards. Reasons:

    There are several applicable standards.

  2. Mathnet follows guidelines for accessible web pages, that is, pages which can successfully convey our message to users who are visually impaired, or blind, or have motor issues. Reasons: Charity requires helping those less fortunate than ourselves, and in particular for web design, avoiding to actively get in the way of their strategies to mitigate their disabilities. Campus policy is to make reasonable accomodations for the disabled. All entities in the United States, and particularly federally funded entities like our Department, are required to comply with the Americans with Disabilites Act.

  3. Mathnet adapts to the screen and window that the client provides us. Mathnet does not insist that our pages be viewed on a particularly sized monitor. Reason: We cannot know on what screen our material will have to fit or fill, but just within our department we know of screens ranging from 2560x1920px to 320x320px and 75 to 250 dpi. It isn't professional if we require a SVGA (800x600px) monitor at 75 dpi for our pages to look right. This principle implies several design rules:

  4. Mathnet does not use plugins of any kind, e.g. Adobe (Shockwave) Flash, and rarely if ever uses Javascript or Ajax technology. Reasons:

    Several exceptions are made to the no-plugin rule, but this list should not be added to without serious thought of the consequences.

  5. Although our emphasis is on standard-compliant pages to be shown by standard-compliant browsers, Mathnet accomodates retro (ancient) web browsers within reason, as well as idiosyncracies of a few common browsers.

  6. Mathnet writes pages that work equally well on all operating systems. The main vendor-specific issue for us is fonts.

  7. In order to present a professional, coherent and efficient web design, we adhere to several additional rules:

Editor Issues

We need to pick a HTML editor, install it for our users, and provide documentation. We have considered these editors:


This is widely used, there are University H.R. classes on it, and several web people in the department use it. However, it is only available on Microsoft Windows, and it costs money. We are currently evaluating whether it will write out a compliant web page if we prime it with a compliant template.


It is the same kind of full-featured editor as Dreamweaver. Preliminary experience with this program suggests that it is pretty good. Versions are available for Linux and Windows; it is in the SuSE distro. It has been tested and produces compliant output if given compliant input (if some default behaviors are headed off, such as dimensioning table columns in pixels).

Notepad or vi

The problem with a HTML editor is training naive users to use it. The user training issues are much less if we have them edit a flat file. If the replaceable elements of the template page are sufficiently simple and few, the flat file solution could be feasible. On the other hand, in complex documents only an expert produces decent HTML and CSS with a flat file editor.

Microsoft Word

This program is intended to lay out pages on print media, which is opposite what a web browser has to accomplish. Word does, however, have a feature to save as web page. The resulting file violates all the principles in this document, because the program is fixated on print media. In fact, much of this document was produced by listing what had to be fixed in a Microsoft Word web page. When we want to just solve the user's problem, it is very tempting to offer him Microsoft Word, but we will forever regret allowing such bad HTML on our system.

In addition, if our pages are in the UTF-8 charset, we need to (and have not yet) identify an editor that will insert UTF-8 extended characters. Undoubtedly the editor will want to use a generic Unicode input method, which we need to learn about, install, and document.