Usability: Content Manager Responsibilities

Your greatest responsibility: adopt the mindset of the Website visitor

A content editor is someone who contributes content to a Website. The greatest responsibility of all content editors is to not think of their own comfort level when adding and maintaining content on a Website but rather to adopt the mindset of the site visitor. 

For example, as a new content editor, you have been tasked with sharing information on a Website that currently exists in a Microsoft Word document.  If you are new to creating Web-based content you may be unaware of the years of research in the subjects of Web accessibility and usability that have proceeded your first foray into content management.  Instinctively, it may seem that the easiest course of action for you is to upload the document to the Website and give visitors a link from which to open the file. Unfortunately, this strategy does not fully consider the perspective of the site visitor:

  • What if the visitor is on a computer that does not have the application, MS Word installed on their computer, how can they open and view the important content contained within?
  • Does the content contained in the MS Word file need only to be read but not edited? Instead you should convert the language in the file into an actual Web page or a PDF file which can be opened in the free, universal viewer, Adobe Acrobat Reader. 
  • How one writes for the Web differs from print formats, if you are not familiar with best practices for Web writing do some research before you convert a MS Word file to a Web page.

Follow this decision tree to determine When to use a Word document, a PDF, or a Web page? (PDF)

ALA selected Drupal as a CMS because of its commitment to creating accessible Websites but true accessibility does not happen without the knowledge, skill and diligence of all our content editors.

What is accessibility?

Accessibility is the extent to which an information resource is retrievable and understandable by all users, especially those users with special needs and abilities. On a Website, this means adhering to established accessibility guidelines − Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 and Section 508 of the U.S. Rehabilitation Act − to ensure that these user groups are able to access content. User groups with special needs and abilities include but are not limited to the following:

  • Blind users who use screen reader software to access textual and visual content;
  • Low-vision users who zoom in on their browsers to substantially enlarge the default text size and may also set the browser to “no style” view, removing all CSS styling and leaving the remaining text and graphics to increase readability of enlarged text;
  • Colorblind users who may have trouble seeing image content or distinguishing among text colors.
  • Low-tech users who may not have viewing software or a recent browser version and who are not very comfortable or adept at navigating websites.
  • Developmentally disabled users who have trouble concentrating for extended periods of time or comprehending complex language.
  • Low-mobility users who may only use keyboard controls.

ALA best practices and resources for content editors

On a website of any size, but especially on a large-scale site like, maintaining a high level of consistency of page design and content presentation is of the utmost importance. Consistency not only enhances the ease with which users can navigate pages and find information, it boosts a site’s visitor retention rate, reinforces organization branding efforts, and improves user perception of site trustworthiness and content quality (Crystal & Kalyanaraman, 2004).

Thus, content editors must adhere to the Web Style Guide to best serve our Website visitors. The Web Style Guide is Content Management System (CMS) agnostic and has existed since ALA used the Active Matter CMS, which was the precursor to Collage.

The Web Style Guide is the final word on how to approach adding and maintaining content on in order to assure consistency, usability and accessibility.  However, you can fully and painlessly uphold the principles set forth in the Web Style Guide by adhering to the ALA Content Editors' Nine Guidelines for Maintaining HIgh Quality Webpages. Think of the nine guidelines as a check list (cheat sheet) that you follow to assess each Webpage that you manage.