Contents of a Good Digital Standard

What is the difference between a good and a bad standard? It's contents of course!

Kristina Podnar
November 30, 2017

Digital standards are specifications that guide us in what is to be done within a specific aspect of digital publication. Standards are an excellent way to support your digital policies and ensure that an aspect of your digital operations is always completed in the same way, with predictable and expected results.

If you have been working in the digital realm for a while, you have likely created or used digital standards. A statement that tells you the color of a webpage header, the font to use for text in your mobile application, or what logo to use as your Twitter profile icon are all standards. And depending on your longevity in the digital space, you have likely experienced both good and bad standards. Good standards are usually short, specific, written in plain language, and measurable. They tend to span functional to technical aspects of digital operations, exist in large numbers usually (anywhere from 25 to 200 depending on the organization’s size and digital channels utilized), and are created by tactical specialists.

Bad standards are either those that do not provide explicit guidance or they are so long that it is hard to read them, let alone follow them. I once received a 59-page standard from a client, and was dreading the remaining 87 standards they promised to send along for my reference. To brave those standards, you had to care a lot and be a true digital hero. I think you can be an even greater hero by simply creating short and to-the-point standards that get the idea across with minimal fuss and unnecessary verbiage and references. So how do you do that? I always start by boiling it down to the basics.

Here is my list, with a short explanation of what I put into each aspect of the standard:

Standard Statement 

State here what should or should not be done in respect to a specific aspect of digital. For example:

  • Ensure that a metadata description in the “meta description” tag is provided for page of each site. The description should: 1) be unique to each page, and b) be under 200 characters, including spaces.
  • Do not use the “meta keywords” field to add keywords to pages.


Rationale for the Standards

Identify why is it important that we follow this standard and what will happen if we don’t. This should be expressed in both digital and business terms.

Related Standards

Provide links to other standards that the user should be considering if they are reading this specific standard.


Identify how will the standard be measured and whether the process can be automated.


Writing good standards takes discipline and practice. I have been authoring standards and working with teams in workshops to create standards for over ten years now. Still, I always learn something new. So don’t worry if standards development doesn’t come quickly or if you get stuck. Like everyone else who is a good standards author, you will develop the knack for standards writing. But if you find that you need a jump start or just want a review of your progress to date, feel free to drop a line and we can talk about the best way to boost your efforts. 

Photo by Niketh Vellanki on Unsplash

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