The guiding principles for determining whether or not to build content in a wepage vs. a document is the same for determining what to include in an e-mail vs. a document, whether that means a text e-mail with either an uploaded and attached PDF or other document or an e-mail with links to webpages.

It's best to use e-mail together with links to webpages with more or supporting content to the e-mail. If a webpage doesn't exist to link to, create a webpage first and then compose an e-mail with some teaser copy and a link to the webpage with the complete content. Additional things to consider have to do with the limitations of composing e-mails vs. documents or webpages:

  • If a webpage exists with content the e-mail is meant to support and advertise, don't write an e-mail and attach or link to a print version of the content. Link to the webpage instead.
  • If an e-mail is received with an attached pdf file that isn't accessible, ask the sender if there is an available webpage to link to instead. If there isn't, don't forward the e-mail, especially to groups of people and e-mail lists for broad distribution.
  • When composing an e-mail to potential students and current students to advertise or support an event, program, course, professor, etc. don't put all of the content in the e-mail. Instead, create a summary e-mail, short and concise, about the item and include a link to a webpage for more and complete information.
  • When composing an e-mail don't include images of text, either standalone and created separately or from a PDF or other graphic, something like a screen capture of a brochure, program flier, newsletter, etc. In most cases images of text, unless they're logos or very simple, are difficult to make accessible without redoing them in a graphic design program such as Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator. Consult photos and images for more information and how to combine email and webpages in a communication.

Group Communications to Members While Developing Documents

Development of content for either print or electronic distribution often occurs in groups or committees of individuals who commonly team-develop and collaborate on documents for broader distribution once versioning is finalized. Sharing content over electronic media can be done by confining documents that are not yet accessible to members over e-mail or by keeping webpages in an unpublished or working state.

In these situations it's best to make sure everyone involved understands the significance of accessibility in choosing the design and layout of the content, particularly if it's intended to be broadly distributed electronically and made available to university audiences and the public at large once the content is finalized.

Development Questions for Accessibility

  • Is the group only working on authoring material or working on design as well?
  • Is the content intended for print or electronic distribution or both?
  • Is there someone in the group who can make documents accessible or does the group need an outside developer?
  • What choices in terms of layout and design do group members need to make in order to make content accessible?
  • If the content is to be provided in a webpage, who will be responsible for creating the webpage?
  • If the content is to be provided in e-mail, who will be responsible for creating the e-mail?