How to build a website, use Email & ICTs

Editorial advice

The creation of a website demands specific knowledge. Here is some advice about the content and lay-out of National Commissions' and Permanent Delegations' websites.

You can find a sample of texts describing UNESCO  in the brochure UNESCO at a glance (pdf).

In This Section

What is the difference between writing for a website and writing for a magazine? Top

The reader behaves differently according to the medium he/she is faced with. When he/she is surfing on the Web, he/she does not read the articles in depth. Most of the time, he/she is satisfied with scanning the text rather than reading it word by word. He/She skims through the articles content looking for information likely to be of interest to him. Only afterwards he/she will focus on details, if a piece of information holds his attention. Therefore, you need to adopt a different writing style and give priority to other elements than for a magazine. The aim is to give clear and visible information.

Are there basic principles concerning Web writing? Top

The first rule is that pages must not contain an overabundance of details. Texts have to be short and their contents explicit. Five hundred words are enough for an article.

Pay attention to the page lay-out. Give room to blank spaces so the user can scan through the page. The best way to do it is to create paragraphs and use bullets.

The title and the introduction have to be highlighted. A relevant title is clear, short (between 4 and 12 words) and informative. The introduction must summarize the main point of the article. It has to answer to five or six questions (who, when, what, where, why, how) to give readers the most possible information in a few lines. It should be only one paragraph, visually different from the rest of the text.

In general, the article must be built according to the principle of the reversed pyramid. The specific elements are placed at the top of the page whereas the less important ones or/and the context information are at the bottom. It is important to create a dynamic website, so add some hyperlinks - these are considered as an invitation to go beyond.

Where should the hyperlinks in a text be inserted? Top

The hyperlinks should be inserted at the bottom of the page or on the right side, or eventually inside the article. They must not be in the title or in the introduction because the Web user is likely to click on the link and leave without taking the time to read that page. There are some rules about the insertion of links. These have to be explicit so that the user will be able to identify the type of content before even visiting the linked page. Acronyms are forbidden because most of the time their meanings are unknown, except to specialists. Do not put too many links either, because they could divert the user from your site.

What types of links are useful for the user visiting a National Commission website? Top

National Commissions associate national educational, scientific and cultural bodies to UNESCO. They should help the Internet user find information on these different actors and provide him/her with hyperlinks to these national organizations. It could be links to the websites of ministries, national universities or bodies represented in the National Commission. Likewise, National Commissions should lead the Internet user to the different sections of the site Avoid sending users to a website with controversial content.

Should pictures be considered as an important element? Top

Contrary to what people think, the Internet user has a tendency to give more importance to content than to pictures. To begin with, he/she is actively looking for content, especially if he/she is surfing on the UNESCO website or on the National Commissions' ones. Nevertheless, pictures offer a real "breath" to users, who are often overwhelmed with masses of text.

How to choose the pictures for the National Commission website? Top

The main function of pictures is to convey a message. It is not advisable to use pictures representing meetings or conferences because of their limited informative value. They can even create a distance with the user who, most of the time, does not know the people in the picture. National Commissions should put online pictures that illustrate national issues related to education, culture, science and communication. It could be hard to find an illustration for some topics. In that case, you have to show creativity. A picture representing books on a table would better illustrate an article about education than the picture of a meeting.

Can bright colours be used or would it be better to remain classic? Top

Simple colours are, most of the time, better perceived by users. Loud colours do not necessarily hold their attention. The Web user has a tendency to ignore too obvious elements such as moving images or very colourful banners. This phenomenon is called "banner blindness". The Web user considers these elements as a pollution that prevents him from finding his information quickly. When on line, he/she does not want to think and would not like to be distracted. Therefore, on Internet, favour graphic simplicity.

The space for the banner, at the top of the page, should be considered as a referent for the whole website. Only one picture should be put there, rather than assembling several ones trying to illustrate all UNESCO's fields of action. Sophisticated images in the banner, attempting to evoke everything, are likely to bring about confusion in the reader's mind and prevent from legibility.

To what extent can National Commissions inspire themselves from the UNESCO website? Top

National Commissions' websites could be inspired by the site, but they must be different.

It would be relevant to stay close to UNESCO's website spirit while arousing public interest in offering a continuity to the Organisation's work in their own country. To repeat texts describing UNESCO is not necessary since these are already on line on the website A link to them is more efficient because it guarantees updated information. On the contrary, the translation of these texts, into other languages than the United Nations' official languages, has great interest. Those texts would be available to more people. If this is the case, we would be happy to add a link from our website and give users the opportunity to get acquainted with UNESCO in other languages.

National Commissions' websites should show specificity. These are a communication channel for National Commissions, which can feel free to write down discussions raised at UNESCO. The aim is to convey the national opinion, even if it is different from the common opinion. Out of consideration for the user, National Commissions have to clearly indicate that it is their websites. The user must not have doubts on where he/she is. The identification must be clear and the National Commission's name visible.

Languages Top

Languages play a decisive role in the transmission of knowledge. The UNESCO Internet Portal is limited to the use of the six official languages of the Organization. A particular added value of National Commission and Permanent Delegation websites consists therefore in providing access to UNESCO-related information through the use of additional languages. As a general rule, these websites should use the language(s) of the specific audience(s) that they address. This concerns both the publication of original content and the translation of resource material from UNESCO.

In turn, translations of original content into one or several official languages of UNESCO may also be considered for reaching international audiences, on condition that:

  • redundancies with the UNESCO Internet Portal are avoided;
  • the original language content is sufficiently developed and represents the largest proportion of the website;
  • only lasting or permanent types of content are translated (in order to avoid obsoleteness and costly updates);
  • there is effective editorial control of the translations.

Is there any point having a bilingual website? Top

A website in several languages allows targeting a larger public. The importance of other languages on the Internet is bigger and bigger. Multilingualism is a chance for UNESCO. It gives us the opportunity to approach a larger number of people. Therefore, it would be logical that National Commissions give priority to the national language(s). The main target group of their website is nationals.

Can texts, which are already on line, be used? Do sources have to be quoted? Top

Given that UNESCO invented the notion of copyright, it is our duty to respect it. Pillaging texts or pictures is forbidden. Some texts are free of rights and can be copied or translated. Nevertheless, mentioning the source is mandatory. For example, the UNESCO Courier articles and press releases could be a constant source of information on the issues that UNESCO deals with.

How to assure proper referencing in search engines (Google, Yahoo, Baidu…)? Top

Using keywords and proper use of metadata to tag web pages is essential to assure that proper indexing in Google and other search engines. In addition, keywords you use in the Title of your page, should be repeated in the body text, and in the system used for URL addresses to assure proper referencing. Rules of how pages are referenced are constantly evolving, so it is best to research Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and keep up to date on current techniques. (