Web Style Guide: Introduction


An attractive, usable website helps to advance the interests of all ALA units and individuals. Studies show that when appropriate design standards are implemented, users linger longer and take full advantage of a site’s resources. Because we want our website to be the premier source of authoritative information for people who work in or manage libraries of all types, we must make the site attractive, enticing, and reliable. The site should:

  • Be easy to search and browse.
  • Provide consistent, easy to understand ways to do things.
  • Be aesthetically pleasing, with standardized graphic elements.
  • Be accessible to users with various disabilities.
  • Provide reliable links to web pages, files and forms.
  • Offer up interesting new material at appropriate intervals.

Consistent graphic design and interface standards make it easier for visitors to use the site and benefit from all we have to offer.


This style guide covers the design of content pages on http://www.ala.org by ALA staff and member-volunteers who contribute to the site. It addresses the look and feel of the pages, the language of the content, and the insertion of pages into the information structure of the site.

This document does not address the use of a content management system (CMS) for adding, uploading, or managing content on http://www.ala.org; that information is maintained separately. This allows for changes in the CMS or the procedures and policies for using it, without requiring changes to this document.


The new site design is based on web best practices. It incorporates developments derived from observations of people using sites and utilizes research findings from human factors studies. The principles can be summed up by two statements:

  1. Make frequent tasks easy and infrequent tasks possible;
  2. Don’t make users think about how to use the site.

How to Use this Guide

Items in this guide are marked “must,” “should,” “may,” or “never.” These have the following meanings:

  • Must − required, deriving from ALA policy or widely accepted norms of usage;
  • Should − highly recommended where feasible; not required under all conditions; and
  • May − exceptions to “must” and “should” items; or other suggestions based on the recommendations of experts in the field of website usability.
  • Never − prohibited, deriving from ALA policy or widely accepted norms of usage.