Web Standards at a Glance

Standards are set to maintain a consistent look and feel throughout the WSDOT Web site.

If you find that you have a business need that can't be met within these parameters, please contact Jeremy Bertrand.

At a Glance

Create any WSDOT websites and navigate CMS efficiently by:

  • Sticking to the templates (link) and don’t change any logos, banners or the design code such as adding frames or different fonts
  • Using only the standard WSDOT web colors (link) on a white background (included with the templates)
  • Using short, descriptive file names with no spaces or special characters
  • Adding original photos to pages; no videos, clip art, stock photos or animated graphics
  • Optimizing your photos (link to that help section) and limit to three photos per page
  • Including the file type and size of PDF or any files like: (PDF 80kb)File Name
  • Never publishing a page before it is complete; no “under construction” or “coming soon” pages
  • Never linking users in a new window, use the default “target” setting when adding a hyperlink
  • Ensure you follow accessibility standards
  • Following what is listed in the Style Guide



The WSDOT brand is not just a logo and a shade of green. It is conduct that guides our work. We deliver projects and services, we are accountable, and we talk about what we do .

WSDOT should be recognizable by our conduct. It's the agency's identity.

1. No surprises

WSDOT is the first and best source of information about the agency, whether the news is good or bad. WSDOT provides accurate, timely, complete and open communications on issues for which the agency is responsible, including current programs, projects and policies.

2. WSDOT cares

WSDOT is customer-focused and provides two-way communications. WSDOT staff should take advantage of opportunities to listen to our customers and employees. This fosters trust and teamwork, maintaining and improving public confidence.

3. Manage expectations

WSDOT tells the whole story. Building and maintaining transportation systems is not easy. Sharing successes and admitting shortcomings boosts our credibility, and helps foster understanding of the difficult decisions we make.
Strategic communicators

In addition to project information, WSDOT looks for opportunities to communicate policy, budget, or other big-picture information.

4. WSDOT is a can-do agency

WSDOT staff are problem solvers. Sometimes we can't meet the expectations of every customer, however, due to limited resources, conflicting public opinions and interests, legal constraints or other limitations. If this is the case, WSDOT should explain why and give workable alternatives.

Further details and examples of WSDOT branding principles are in the Communications Manual, which is available only to WSDOT employees on the intranet.


Design and maintain a user-centered website

People visit the WSDOT website to:

  1. Complete a task
  2. Get answers to a problem or question

All content on the WSDOT website should be in response to the needs of our visitors. To do that, we first need to know what it is and why they need it in order to quickly provide the content.

How do I know who uses my site?

  • By who calls or emails your office for particular items
  • Who your office has historically served in the past
  • Google Analytics: can show where visitors go on the site
  • CrazyEgg: tracks where visitors click and scroll on a certain page


What happens if we skip this step?

Visitors to your website remember negative experiences. Every bit of online content WSDOT provides reflects on the agency as a whole.


Card sorting exercise

Talk it over with your team or set up a time for a Web Help team member to go through the exercise with you.

  1. Write down everything users come to your site to do on Post It notes. Lay them all on the table.
  2. Think about the connections and if certain visitors would do the same thing such as looking at standard plans.
  3. Are there any tasks users should be able to do but can’t on the current site? Write those down and add them to your card spread.
  4. Put these actions into the group that make sense. Ensure we are providing visitors with ways to complete their top tasks


Have a hierarchy begin with the most used

Choose the top five tasks of your visitors and focus on those. If visitors aren’t using content, then it shouldn’t be online.

Long lists of links to every portion of the site do not help users. Instead, think of guiding them toward the things they need, such as separating content by user group or separating your content into groups, such as all the training materials in one place.


Breaking up ideas

Make it scannable

Website visitors read in an F pattern -– starting with the first letter in the first sentence and jumping down the left side, then over again. Write the first sentence and line of every paragraph to capture readers’ attention and lead them to what they are looking for. We want people to spend fewer than two minutes on each page.


Keep paragraphs close to their headings to make it easy to scan. Feel free to write headings in different forms, as long as they make sense.

There are four header types:

  1. Action-focused
    Ex: Call us for more information
  2. Noun-focused
    Ex: Lane striping
  3. Statements
    Ex: WSDOT is in charge of our highways
  4. Questions
    Ex: How can I get a parking permit?


People can easily scan these if you:

  1. Use bulleted lists for items or choices
  2. Use numbered lists for instructions
  3. Put space between each line in your lists
  4. Aim for no more than 5 bullets in each list
  5. Avoid using tables, as they are not easily accessible for visitors using a screen reader



Similar content in different places makes it difficult for visitors to know which version is correct. Keeping similar information in one place also makes it easy for content managers to update.



Write links that lead people to where they want to go. Match the page title with the hyperlinked text so there are no surprises.


Using active voice

Visitors can easily scan sentences written in active voice. This means putting the subject doing the action at the start of the sentence. Active voice makes it easy to quickly follow along with who is acting upon what.

  • Passive: Writing for the web should be in active voice.
  • Active: You should use active voice when writing for the web.
    You (the noun) should use (verb) active voice when writing for the web.
  • Active: Customers want their problems solved quickly.
    Customers (noun) want (verb) their problem solved quickly.
  • Active: Content managers plan before making a new page.

Word Choice

Use plain talk whenever you can to make content easy to understand and navigate for all visitors. Avoid using acronyms or technical terms if a better choice is available. You are not “dumbing down” the content, but simply making it easier to scan.

You can often find a simpler word:

Avoid | Try

Factual | True

Commence | Start or Begin

Utilize | Use

Transmit | Send    

Efficient | Able


Only use graphics that are instantly recognizable and necessary. Images should be small in size to download quickly. People like pictures of other people. Images should not be used to “break up text.” Use bullets, headings and space to avoid walls of text that are difficult to quickly scan.



Follow our approved guidelines to maintain cohesion throughout the site with colors, fonts and design. See our most recent guidelines or templates for more information.


Content Strategy

All content published to the web must go through the same process as every other communication WSDOT shares. Know who is going to be in charge of writing, editing and creating graphics or photos. Ensure everyone is already trained to do their part in the process.


Content must be:

  • Planned: know who your audience is and why this should be put online
  • Reviewed: write up a website plan of exactly how the page will look and ensure you are providing answers for our visitors  
  • Created: put the plans onto the page and have another review cycle
  • Maintain: choose one person in charge of one page, if that person leaves then you must hand over authority to someone else
  • Removed once no longer needed: out-of-date content should be deleted or updated immediately

You are in charge of managing the page by:

  • Receiving the proper training for page management
  • Putting one person in charge of the page at all times
  • Creating a maintenance schedule to regularly update content and remove anything out of date
  • Ensuring frequently updated content is in as few places as possible
  • Updating content as need be

Need help with any of these steps? Please contact Web Help!


Now that you know more about Web standards, it's time to move onto accessibility standards.