Appendix C - Standards for the National Council Web Site
These standards apply to the Boy Scouts of America National Council
Web site and are provided here as reference for developing local
The BSA Web site is provided by the Electronic Publishing Division as a medium
through which all departments in the National Council may publish information via
The site shell (home pages, menu system, and navigation resources) will
be maintained by the Electronic Publishing Division. The purpose of these interfaces
is to guide the appropriate audiences to the array of materials available in a manner
that is logical to the user and equitable to the content providers. The primary goals
of the site shell are
To support marketing efforts so that the Marketing group may utilize the
site as a promotional vehicle
To enable all departments to publish via the Internet so that there is a
logical location for any resource any department wishes to publish, and so that all
material may be located via a logical system of navigation.
To ensure the site is accessible so that Internet users may find the site
and, once there, the specific resources they seek
To attract and develop an audience for the site
The site content (actual informational content of the site) is owned by
various departments within the National Council, each of which publishes one or
more modules of information in support of its own goals.
The BSA Webmaster maintains sole access privileges (FTP/Telnet) to alter files on
the Web server. Should it become necessary or convenient to provide others the ability
to maintain data on the server, options such as administrative interfaces or limited-access
FTP accounts may be considered.
There is currently no set of guidelines or policies regarding the nature of content
that may be published via the Internet. Individual projects must undergo a process of
approval that requires the signatures of the appropriate account executive and director
of Electronic Publishing, the director of Relationships and Marketing, the directors
of the requesting division and its parent group, legal counsel, the assistant Chief
Scout Executive, and the deputy Chief Scout Executive. If alterations to existing
content exceed simple maintenance and updates, these alterations must also be submitted
through the approval process.
Note that the Web site communications approval process is somewhat different from
the communications/distribution approval process for printed material—what is
approved for publication in print is not necessarily acceptable for publication
on the Internet (and vice-versa).
Content standards pertain to the text, graphic, and multimedia content of Web
Each department within the National Council selects the information and resources
it wishes to publish via the Internet, and has complete authority over its content
modules, subject to the following limitations:
- All content additions must be submitted through an approval process
- Content modules must collocate: they must support site-wide design
conventions, function as "parts" of a larger whole, and support the
standards for Internet publishing as communicated in the present
No information will be placed on the site for any third party without
the sponsorship of one of these departments.
The editorial standards that apply to printed publications also apply to the
text content of Web publications. In practice, most of the copy that has been
placed on the BSA Web site has been drawn directly from printed publications
that have already been edited for conformance to these standards. When material
is being published directly to the Internet, its text content should be reviewed
by a copy editor in the Electronic Publishing Division prior to publication via
Because of the uniqueness of the medium, there are a few guidelines in addition
to those for printed material:
- Web page URLs and e-mail addresses should be set in a monospaced
typeface (courier or similar). Append the protocol (http://)
to URLs and omit default filenames such as index.html or
- Metadiscourse, especially the dread "click here," should be avoided.
Rather than displaying "click" here to view the glossary", the word
"glossary" will suffice - if a text serves as a link, the browser will
display it in a different color (often underlined as well), thus any
blatant declaration would be redundant.
- Fractions are not presently supported within the users' capabilities.
If possible, convert fractions to decimal values. If this is not
desirable, include a space between and whole and fractional amounts
(e.g. 1 1/2 inches rather than 11/2 inches)
Graphics appearing in Web pages are primarily subject to standards detailed
in the context of two other categories: design standards (pertaining to their
appearance) and technical standards (pertaining to physical size and download
speed). In addition to the criteria provided in the context of those sections
- As the Web is a visual medium, color photography and illustrations are
preferred to two-color (black-and-white) versions.
- Because legibility at low resolutions is difficult to achieve, most
informational charts and graphs are not suitable for publication on
the Web, and may require considerable rework (complete rebuild) to be
Though it is possible to include multimedia (sound and motion) elements into
a Web interface, few users have the necessary connection and software to utilize
most multimedia formats presently available. In most cases, multimedia should be
presented as ancillary "click and play" files rather than embedded in a standard
There are some low-bandwidth techniques (DHTML, GIF89A, Java) for simple
animation, designed to be loaded as part of an interface rather as a stand-alone
"movie" file. It is acceptable to use these so long as the entire page can still
be accommodated within the 60K ceiling and is usable by a majority (90%) of the
In most cases, interactive features, which allow users to send information
upline or enable communication between the National Council and the public or
membership, are not permitted on the BSA Web site, largely because these same
people should contact their local council rather than National.
Direct communication with site visitors has been approved in very few
instances, in which the normal channel of communication would be direct to
national. For example, site visitors were able to send their name and address
upline to request an information packet about the world Scout jamboree—these
same people would have contacted the National Council for this information, as
it was not provisioned through the council distribution system.
Data provided via the Web site is provided directly to the department that
owns the interface that collects the information. Departments are urged to be
discreet when this information includes contact information. Specifically,
contact information should be used only for the purpose for which it was
provided—it is unethical, and in some cases illegal (especially when
contact information for children under 13) to use this data for any solicitation
or communication outside the context in which it was provided.
Structure and Design
Standards for site structure and interface design are provided to ensure
new content fits neatly into the existing site. These standards are largely
dependent on the overall site strategy and design conventions, which may
change when the site as a whole is redesigned. The following standards suit
the Web site's present design.
The BSA Web site currently consists of five separate, self-contained Web sites:
- Information for the general public ("About the BSA")
- Information and resources for program participants ("Youth Participants")
- Information and resources for adult volunteers ("Adult Volunteers")
- Recruiting-oriented information for individuals interested in joining
or supporting a unit ("Sign Up for Scouting")
- Resources for professional Scouters that cannot, for whatever reason,
be accommodated by ScoutNet2000 ("Extranet")
The BSA Webmaster maintains high-level elements such as the site's design,
navigation structure, and entire body of "universal" resources and interfaces.
The content of the site, meanwhile, is owned and maintained by divisions within
the National Council. In that way, divisions provide self-contained modules of
information that are linked, as appropriate, from navigation interfaces within
one or more of the five "major" sites.
It is possible for these modules to function as self-contained sites. For
example, the International Division's suite (http://old.scouting.org/international/)
functions as a self-contained Web site, as do the Venturing Division's pages,
Boys' Life and Scouting magazines, the Supply Division's promotions,
and other content modules. It is important to emphasize that, while these
modules function like self-contained sites, their primary purpose is
to provide content in the context of the National Council site.
Information modules are linked into the site as appropriate. Because each
module is self-contained, it may be linked as necessary or desired from one
or more of the first four sites. There are a few restrictions:
- The "splash screen," i.e., the first page viewed when the user arrives at
http://old.scouting.org/, divides the audience into four sections.
No links to content are presented here.
- The first page of each content area serves as a menu for that content area,
which should be considered as the "home page" for that specific audience.
It contains no links to individual content areas except for a small number
of "featured" selections, which receive a graphic and link at the top of
the page. To date, there has not been a problem with numerous departments
wanting their content to be permanently featured here. If this occurs, it
may become necessary to define specific criteria that determines whether a
module may be featured.
- Navigation pages provide menus of links to content pages. There have been a
few instances when a request was made to add a brief announcement to one of
the menus without any click-through. This is not done. (A good analogy is
that the navigation interfaces are a table of contents, hence no informational
verbiage is placed.)
Finally, each module belongs to the department that created it, and modifications
cannot be made without that department's consent. For example, if Cub Scouting wanted
to make an alteration to the "What is Cub Scouting?" fact sheet, they would need to
work through Marketing and Communications (who owns the Fact Sheets), who would then request
that the page be changed. This applies to changes that would require altering the
content of another department's material—it does not exclude providing a link
from one's own module to another department's (though permission from the second
department would be required to make a link in the other direction).
Standards for visual design are very flexible. The only required element for the
content of Web pages is a standard footer containing the BSA logo, identification,
and URL. Also, the design of pages must accommodate the site's navigation sidebar
both in terms of their physical dimensions (width of the "page" on screen) and
design (pages should not clash). White or neutral-colored page backgrounds are
preferred, as information modules may also be presented in the context of local
council sites' interfaces, whose color schemes will vary widely.
Also, information modules should be designed to be modular. Specifically, they
should not depend on graphics located in other modules; i.e., if a module is to
contain a graphic contained within another module, a duplicate copy should be
made in that module's directory. Granted, this is inefficient in terms of storage
and bandwidth usage, but it avoids creating site-wide dependencies that cause some
pages to "break" if others are altered or deleted.
To date, the majority of documents published on the BSA Web site have been
adapted from hard-copy publications and have been converted to retain a semblance,
inasmuch as possible in the medium, of their original design.
As it is not possible to verbally describe the criteria of a visual aesthetic,
all decisions as to whether any interface is acceptable for publication will be
made by the BSA design director.
Technical standards are provided to ensure the integrity and security of the
Web site, and to ensure its usability by the majority of the audience. Because
the technology itself changes over time, these standards will need to be updated
To date, all programs and interfaces placed on the site have been developed
or rebuilt by the BSA Webmaster, so there has been no need to develop detailed
technical standards for Web interfaces and programs. Should any department wish
to create or outsource the development of programs and interfaces, the BSA
Webmaster will review them before placing them on the Web server, and will
adjust or rebuild them as necessary to ensure they are optimal and secure.
In terms of both design and technology, Web pages should be suited for display
given the following minimum parameters:
- Terminals running Macintosh or Windows operating systems
- Monitor resolution of 640x480 pixels (remember the sidebar, though)
- Monitor depth of 256 colors (decorative elements may be grainy, but
the informational content should be legible at this depth)
- "Third generation" Web browser (Netscape Navigator 3.0 and Internet
Explorer 4.0) compatibility
In order to avoid excessive download speed, the total file size of an interface
(all text and graphics) should not exceed 60 kilobytes. Some items may be presented
as a single page, but most will need to be divided into a suite of pages. As a note,
this is not inflexible—in some cases, it may be necessary to exceed that limit
(if the information can only be presented graphically, or if a large unit of data
would not make sense if presented as smaller pieces).
The task of making the BSA Web site accessible to the disabled largely falls
upon the developers of hardware and software solutions that make any Web
site accessible by the disabled. The measure of success for such solutions is in
their ability to make standard Web pages (without an unreasonable degree of
accommodation on the part of the developer) accessible.
Pages on the BSA site should employ language-standard conventions (using
alternate text to images, avoiding server-side image mapping and nested tabular
layouts) to make materials as accessible and intelligible as possible to disabled
users. However, going to extremes to accommodate any specific piece of hardware or
software often excludes competing products. The degree of support for these products
should be restrained to the same degree to which they rely upon the standard
conventions of Web technologies.
The World Wide Web Consortium promulgates guidelines under its Web Accessibility
Initiative (WAI). These guidelines should be regarded as helpful advice rather
than taken as factual standards. (See http://www.w3c.org/WAI)
Plug-Ins and Helper Applications
Ideally, Web interfaces should be usable with the Web browser alone; i.e.,
without the need for additional software to assist the browser in displaying an
interface. This is not practical as a hard-and-fast rule due to the limitations
of browser software. While requiring additional software cannot be forbidden, it
is discouraged unless there is a compelling reason.
Projects that require plug-in or helper software are expected to be rare, so
the BSA Webmaster will evaluate these requests on a case-by-case basis. The factors
in determining whether it is acceptable to use a given technology include:
If an existing page requires additional software to accomplish a given
task or effect, other pages with similar requirements should use the
same software. (Example: we are already using QuickTime for video, and
it is capable of streaming video, so there's no need to require Vivo
or RealVideo for the same effect.)
The user should receive a benefit from installing the software. It
should be necessary to content or resources of value rather than for
any frivolous purpose.
The software must be available for the entire audience. An application
available for Macintosh only is unacceptable, as a portion of the
audience uses Windows.
- Stability. The software must run reliably (without causing the
browser or system to crash) on all platforms.
- Reliability. The software must have been on the market for at
least two years, and it must be used in the Web sites of other
organizations similar in scope and prestige to the BSA.
- Cost. The software should be available to our users free of
Where content requires plug-in applications, it is necessary to provide a link to
the manufacturer's site so that the visitor may obtain the software. Such links should
be treated carefully, such that the manufacturer's license agreement is met and, at the
same time, the link does not take the tone of a commercial endorsement.
These standards apply to the Boy Scouts of America National Council
Web site and are provided here as reference for developing local