Best Practices for Content and Style in DotNetNuke

By October 3, 2008 No Comments

DotNetNuke is a great platform for managing a website.  It’s easy to add new pages, add new “modules” of functionality (blogs, photo galleries, etc.) and edit the text/html content on your site.  However, for a website of any significant size, sometimes it’s a challenge to make sure all your pages have the same visual style.
The “Text/HTML” module in DotNetNuke has a “rich text” editor to make it easy to perform basic formatting on your content in a familiar way:

Armed with these tools, many people feel comfortable with delegating someone at their office as “the website person” and placing them in charge of adding new content to the website, or editing existing content.  Unfortunately, this can sometimes lead to “Frankenstein” pages with wacky colors and font sizes that don’t fit the design of the other pages on the site.
Luckily, this can be avoided by following some simple guidelines when editing content on a DotNetNuke website.

  1. Use The Default Font Style

The “default” font style in this case is whatever style has been implemented by the designer of your DNN website.  If you add a Text module to the page, click “edit text” and start typing in the box, you’re using the default font style.
Stay away from these!

Stay away from those “Font” and “Size” options!  If you stick to the default font styles then your text and content will appear as the site designer intended, and your content style will match the rest of your pages.  Now you may be thinking, “If I’m not supposed to use the ‘Size’ drop-down, how do I make text bigger when I need it?”  The answer is…

  1. “Formats” Are Your Friend!

The most consistent way to change the size and style of your text is to pick one of the options in the “Format” drop-down.  This is best way to create headings for paragraphs of text that will look the same across all of your pages.  Header types are numbered from 1 to 6, with 1 usually being the largest font size.  The nice part is that your site designer can specify all of the H1 through H6 styles as part of your site design.  All you need to do is pick the appropriate style from the list!

Here’s an example of a very simple design that uses the H1 through H6 formats:

  1. Follow Web Accessibility and Usability Standards

It’s always a good idea to make your content accessible to as many visitors as possible.  You can find a nice overview of how to create accessible content by searching online.  There are many guidelines to follow in order to make your content as usable and accessible as possible.  I won’t go into them all, but I think one convention that all websites should adopt is to create coherent and obvious links.
Links should be underlined and have good names!

Links are the fundamental way for your visitors to navigate.  The universal symbol for a link is blue, underline text.  In my opinion, your links don’t always have to be blue, but they should almost always be underlined.  If your visitors can’t identify how to navigate around your website (because you chose to use light grey text with no underline) then they will become frustrated and your traffic will suffer.
You should also choose good names for your links.  Text such as “click here” does not provide any information about where the user will be taken.  It’s much better to change the link to “Most Recent Blog Posts”.  This tells the user exactly what’s going on and it’s much easier to spot on the page then a bunch of links that say “click here”.
Webaim has more recommendations for link appearance.

  1. MS Word Does Not Play Nice

If you’re starting a new website for your business, chances are that most of the content you’re going to put online exists in the form of Microsoft Word Documents.  I think Microsoft Word 2007 is a fantastic word processing program, but unfortunately it does not play well with the Text/HTML Module in DotNetNuke (and many other “rich text” editors for that matter).  If you open a Word document and try to copy/paste into the DNN Text Module, chances are you won’t like what you see.  The formatting might look different, line spacing could be erratic, and your bulleted lists will look a little funky.  Unfortunately, until either MS Word or the developers behind the rich text editor make some enhancements, there isn’t an easy way to solve this one.  If it’s a short amount of text, then it’s probably best to just retype it into the online editor.  If you’re dealing with large amounts of text in one document then copy/paste might be your only option.

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