Content Guidelines

Content Principles

Most of these principles are pulled from 18F's Content Guide. Thanks to them for the great resource and the inspiration!

  • Use plain language and simple sentences. Choose clarity over cleverness.
  • Use active language and address the visitor directly. Use "you" as much as possible. Write conversationally — as if you're talking to a visitor one-on-one.
  • Do not duplicate content. OuterSpatial Web and Mobile display related information contextually, so there's no need to copy-paste content in multiple places. For example, if a visitor is looking at a trail detail page/screen, they'll also see information about the parent area so there's no need to describe the parent area in the trail description.
  • Be clear and concise: Use contractions (such as can't and won't) and the language people are using.
  • Put the most important information first and break up large chunks of text.
  • Refine your content over time. Make changes based on feedback from your visitors and prioritize content work using visitor usage analytics provided by OuterSpatial.

Writing Style

Given that OuterSpatial's content comes from many different organizations, keeping the writing style consistent is a challenge. Follow this guidance to ensure your content fits in with OuterSpatial's "voice":

  • Avoid abbreviations and acronyms.
  • Use the active voice to make your content more engaging. For example, rather than saying "Fishing licenses must be purchased at the Big Lake Ranger Station" say "You must purchase a fishing license at the Big Lake Ranger Station."
  • For names, headings, and titles, we've standardized on the Chicago Manual of Style's recommendation of capitalizing the "first word of the title, the last word of the title, and all nouns, pronouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, subordinating conjunctions, and a few conjunctions." (Pulled from an article by Grammar Girl.) If you are unsure about capitalization for a title, there are free tools available on the web that do the conversion for you, including this one.)
  • When writing names, headings, and titles, also avoid duplicating information that's available elsewhere. For example, for an event: "Hike Mount Tam" is a good title while "Hike Mount Tam on 7/17" is bad because the date of the event is available elsewhere.
  • Use inclusive language. Check out the inclusive language page in the 18F Content Guide for more guidance on this.
  • Spell out numbers one through nine and use numerals for numbers 10 and greater. Use full, four-digit years.
  • Use the serial comma.
  • Use the longer em dash, with a space on either side of the dash when offsetting a phrase with dashes.
  • Use an "en dash" to convey a range of numbers.
  • Separate sentences with a single space. Never use two spaces.
  • Do not add extra spaces at the end of a paragraph or list item. This can cause content to wrap unexpectedly.
  • Use and instead of an ampersand or plus sign, unless they're part of an official title or company name.
  • Avoid using the slash symbol. Replace it with words or commas.

This writing style is also heavily influenced by 18F's Content Guide.


Images in OuterSpatial are presented in one of two ways:

  1. Landscape areas: Hero images, outing thumbnails, and event thumbnails are presented in areas that are wider than they are tall. For these areas, OuterSpatial Mobile uses a scaling mode called "Aspect Fill" to handle image presentation. This scaling mode scales images until the smallest side fits flush with the target area, typically cropping one side (horizontal or vertical), but never both.
  2. Square areas: The featured content and community partner thumbnails throughout OuterSpatial Mobile present images in a square area. For featured content thumbnails, OuterSpatial Mobile uses the "Aspect Fill" scaling mode described above. For community partner thumbnails, however, OuterSpatial Mobile uses a scaling mode called "Aspect Fit" to ensure logos do not get cropped. This scaling mode scales images until the biggest side fits flush with the target area, applying empty space to the top or side, but never both.

Here are some general guidelines for images in OuterSpatial:

  • Prefer landscape over portrait, though portrait photos are supported.
  • We recommend not spending much time tweaking padding and margins, as we cannot guarantee these will be always be presented consistently throughout the different sections of iOS and Android.
  • Illustrations and image highlights should be focused in the center of the image to ensure the subject is not cropped.
  • Avoid "burning" text into an image, because some images contain text overlaid on top and "burned" in text is not accessible to screen reader technology.
  • Including people in photos is great, but don't include individuals who are wearing outdated clothing unless a photo supplies historical context. For example, don’t use a photo of a person hiking from the 1970’s unless you specifically mention you're presenting the photo for historical context.
  • Always include captions, as they are critical to making a photo accessible.
  • Also include attribution info when available. OuterSpatial supports adding an attribution URL, as well, so you can link users back to source information.
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