A Quick Guide to…Dates and Times

We’ve standardised how we write dates and times on our sites. This makes it easier for visitors to work out when things are happening.

It also makes scanning a page for key information much quicker.

In the latest of our Quick Guide series, here’s a timely reminder of our best practice for dates and times:


Dates have no punctuation.

The order should be day month year eg Thursday 4 August 2016.

A date range should look like this:

  • 2011 to 2012
  • Friday 28 February to Monday 3 March

Sometimes space is an issue, eg in tables. In this case, it’s fine to use truncated months eg Jan, Feb, Mar.

We’ve also set standards for writing decades and centuries:

  • 1930s not 1930’s
  • 20th century not twentieth century


We use the 24 hour clock.

This makes times accessible to international audiences.

Here are some principles for presenting times:

  • 17.30 not 5:30pm or 1730hrs
  • 00.00 not midnight
  • 12.00 not midday or 12 noon

For periods of time, you can use a hyphen between start and end times. For example, 10.00 – 11.30

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Quality as Standard: Our Proofreading Checklist

Every site we build goes through rigorous technical and quality checks before being released into the wild. I’m involved in the quality side as part of the editorial team who are responsible for proofreading the content.

There’s a simple reason for all the checks we do prior to making a site live: visitors to your site will judge you for the mistakes they find. And that judgement could be the difference between recruiting a student or attracting a new member of staff/partner/funder, or not.

Here’s our checklist of things to look out for.

Spelling and grammar

First on the list is a check to make sure there are no typos or spelling mistakes – we get help with this from SiteImprove.

We’ll also check the grammar. A misplaced comma can make a massive difference to the meaning of a sentence.

Clarity and consistency

We’ll check to make sure content is as clear as possible. Sentences and paragraphs should be short. Content should be direct and helpful – if you’re inclined to ramble, beware.

We’re looking for use of plain English. We’ll remove jargon, caveats and unnecessary words.

We’re also looking out for cases of repetition – within the page and across the site.

Currency and accuracy

Part of the proof is to make sure content is current and accurate. When we’re migrating sites we begin with a snapshot of content, and this can often go out of date during the development phase. The most common instance is where deadlines have passed.

Content and editorial standards

We have a set of content and editorial standards that help us maintain consistency across the University website. You can get a flavour of these standards through our quick guides series. Part of our proofreading is to make sure content meets these standards.

Sense check

We always make sure that someone who hasn’t worked on the content before takes on the role of proof reader. This fresh pair of eyes is more likely to spot anything that doesn’t make sense and might confuse the user.

Give it a go

Why not use our proofing checklist to make sure anything you publish on your site meets the web team’s standards. We’ve produced a content quality checklist (PDF: 74KB) to help with this.

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A Quick Guide to…Hyperlinks

Hyperlinks help with reading and navigating online content. They provide users with a next step/further information, support scan-reading and enhance search engine optimisation.

In the latest of our Quick Guide series, here’s a reminder of our best practice for hyperlinks:

Link text

Your link text should be short phrases – don’t link entire sentences.

Link text needs be descriptive of the content you’re linking to so the user has an idea of where they will be taken if they select the link. Phrases such as ‘click here’ or ‘download’ are unhelpful and not accessible – think about someone relying on a screen reader to navigate your content.

Generic phrases hinder search engine optimisation (SEO). Search engines, like users, take notice of link text. It’s therefore important that link text contains keywords and phrases that you want to rank highly for. No one wants to appear at the top of search results for ‘click here’!

Open in the same browser

Hyperlinks should always open in the same browser tab/window. We leave it up to the user to decide whether they want to open a new tab/window.

Links must work

It sounds obvious but hyperlinks must be checked regularly to make sure they work. My colleagues laugh at me as I often quote Kara Pernice (Nielsen Norman Group) that a broken link is like a broken promise. However, I personally feel disappointed and frustrated when I select a link on a website that turns out to be broken, or if takes me to an unexpected place.

Broken links can damage your credibility to users and won’t help search engine optimisation, as search engines respond to well linked sites.

Related posts

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A Quick Guide to…Expandable Content

Expandable content allows you to show and hide information on a webpage.

This content type can be useful to reduce page length; particularly if content is only relevant to a specific audience.

An example of this can be found on the Open Day website. Expandable boxes have been used on the travel page to allow users to quickly access information relevant to their chosen mode of transport. This saves them from reading information about all of the ways to travel to the University.

The biggest drawback with an expandable box is that it’s an extra click to see information so I’ve summarised our standards for using them in our quick guide to…

Expandable content

You should never hide essential information inside an expandable box as you can’t guarantee that users will click to see the content.

When adding expandable content to a page you should:

  • include a descriptive title – you need to encourage the user to expand the box
  • keep the title to a maximum of 30 characters
  • make sure content within the box is shorter than the main content of the page
  • include no more than 100 characters within an expandable box
  • make sure the content is written for the web

You should also try to use expandable boxes at the end of a page as they act as a visual break in the content. We found in user testing that people often don’t expect content to follow expandable boxes and so they stop scrolling.

Related posts

For more advice on when to use this content type see my post: Hide or not to Hide: When to use Expandable Content.

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A Quick Guide to… Introductions

The latest in our series of Quick Guides, here’s a reminder of best practice for:


We have a simple three point guideline for writing introductions for the web. Introductions should:

  • have fewer than 50 words
  • be a summary of the page’s main point
  • include keywords to support search engine optimisation

We’ve recently been talking about reducing the word limit even further. Could you explain what a page is for in 30 words?

Consider it from the point of view of different devices – whereas a 50 word intro can look roomy on a huge desktop screen, it suddenly becomes very cosy when seen on a mobile.

Keep it simple, and keep it to the point. There’s nothing more annoying than having to read halfway down a page to find out that you’ve been looking at irrelevant content.

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