FOCUS SESSION TITLE:  Web Site Design for Teaching
SESSION LEADER(S):  Christopher B. Reznich, Ph.D., Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, East Lansing, MI, U.S.A.

This focus session raised the issue of the need for sound instructional design as the foundation for any on-line instruction.  The presenter noted that the rule “garbage in, garbage out” applies even more so to on-line instruction.  Thus, the basics of instructional design should be mastered by anyone who seeks to deliver high quality instruction via the Web.

In addition to an overview of instructional design at the macro level (i.e., course) and micro level (i.e., lesson), the presentation focused on principles of instructional website design in the areas of page layout, navigation, configuration, and maintenance.  The presentation of principles began with the most basic principle:

Keep it simple and consistent:  Try for a standard “look” for all pages in your site such as placement of logos, buttons, graphic elements, and the  use of color.

The presentation then proceeded with the individual principles. 

Page Layout: 

  • Provide structural cues.  Use chunking, overviews, advance organizers, maps, fixed display format to arrange information.
  • Keep important information at the top of the page.  Give learners the information they need immediately.  This may include navigation tips, or order in which units should be accessed.
  • Title all pages.  Users need to know where they are, so title all pages.
  • Include author and copyright information.  Protect your intellectual property!   Place copyright information on all pages.
  • Make a design choice.

 Keep Pages Short:

  • Shorter pages load faster.  Have a separate ".PDF-file" for downloading/printing.
Go With One Long Page:
  • All content is in one place so relationships may be more apparent. 
  • It should be noted that, in light of Prof. Janet Grant’s presentation on the Open University of the previous day, that the balance was tipped in favor of short pages, because “virtual page turning” lends a sense of learner accomplishment..


  • Clearly identify selectable areas.  Use the standard “royal blue” to identify links.
  • Indicate progress made.  Use the standard “light red” color to indicate links that have been recently accessed.  It was noted that use of color may be an issue for learners with red-green color-blindness.
  • Select and place links carefully.  Don’t use too many.  Place links at the bottom of the page to force learners to read the page first.
  • Label links appropriately.  Make the link a description of what it links to.  Consider using a “urlography” of resource links and their URLs.


  • Offer help configuring learners’ browsers.  Let learners know which “plug-ins” they need for multimedia (video, audio).  Consider including links to sites that provided required plug-ins.


  • Make sure everything in your web site works, and is up to date.  Make sure everything works the first time users try it.  Later, make sure the site’s content is up-to-date: your site reflects on you. 

The need for pilot testing of draft instructional websites arose from one of the participants.  Sites should be tested with different platforms (Macintosh and Windows), and different browsers and browser versions (Netscape and Internet Explorer).  It may be necessary to specify a minimum system configuration in order for the target learner to use the website successfully.

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