The Web Design Group

Style guide for online hypertext

Written by Arnoud Engelfriet. Largely based on Tim Berner-Lee's style guide.

According to some of the search engines, there are now over thirty million documents on the Web. This means that almost every topic is covered in many locations. If a document is hard to read, or the information therein is hard to find, chances are your reader will go elsewhere instead. That's why it is important to make documents accessible to everyone. This style guide will hopefully help you write easy to read documents.


An HTML document (often also called Web page) is the unit by which information is provided to a reader. An on-line document can be as much as a whole book, just a chapter, a page or even only a footnote. In this guide, a set of documents which logically belong together is referred to as a site.

This style guide requires some knowledge of HTML and the functionality of the Web. The WDG's HTML reference discusses HTML elements mentioned in this guide in more detail.


When writing for the Web, the documents usually become part of a larger collection. It's important that the site follows a common structure so all documents are available in a logical place. Of course, each individual document has its own structure considerations as well.

For a document, the style is also very important. By using a common style, you ensure that a reader can use the site effectively. Some important aspects are indicating the status of the document, using images and icons, and writing in a device-independant way. Also, don't forget to validate your documents!

Table of contents

A one-part version of this style guide (37 KB) is also available.

Web Design Group
Last updated: 30 Sep 1997
Copyright © 1996 - 2007. Arnoud Engelfriet.