App Page Content GuidelinesApp Page Content Guidelines admin Fri, 03/31/2023 - 08:09
What to Include on the App Page
What content to include on an app page and what to do if you have a content need that isn't reflected in our standard template.
(* Indicates required Information on an app page)
Sections in this Guideline
- Getting Started
- Training Materials
- Release Notes
- Known Issues
- Provide App Feedback
VA App Store Filters
How to make sure your app is easily found by people browsing the VA App Store.
Writing for The VA App StoreWriting for The VA App Store admin Fri, 03/31/2023 - 08:16
Use Plain Language
Tips for plain language:
- Write sentences that are short and contain only one main idea.
- Consider words that your audience is likely to use when searching for the app, and include them in your page’s text. This will help ensure that the app appears in search results on the VA App Store and in search engines.
- Use technical terms, abbreviations, or acronyms only if their meaning will be clear to your audience and if the nontechnical or abbreviated version of that term is lengthy. Define the term when it is first used.
- Every demonstrative pronoun (for example, it, they, this, these, and which) should clearly refer to a particular noun. For instance, in the sentence “Download the app and restart your phone, and it should work,” it is not clear whether “it” refers to the app or the phone.
- Avoid gendered pronouns (he, she, his, and her) except when referring to a specific individual. Instead, use they, their, and them. For individuals, follow personal pronoun preferences.
- Avoid non-English expressions, terms, and phrases that may be obscure to readers. This can include common expressions in non-English languages such as ad hoc, faux pas, and et cetera.
- Avoid underlining text to emphasize it. Underlines can be mistaken for a hyperlink. Instead, use bold text for emphasis.
Don't do this
This application is utilized by a provider when he is configuring a prosthetic for the patient after completing approved training courses and acquiring an authorization code. It is secured against disclosure of PHI/PII, is easy to use, etc.
Providers use the Prosthetic Programmer app to set up prosthetics for their patients. The app is secured against disclosure of personal identifiable information and protected health information. You must take a training course before using this app.
People tend to read around 20%–28% of a webpage, scanning to look for information rather than reading every word. Structured text enables users to quickly find information. It also makes your text accessible to people using screen readers.
Tips for structuring text:
- Avoid long blocks of unbroken text. Headings, short paragraphs, and bulleted and numbered lists all make it easier for your audience to read your content.
- Use concise and meaningful headings and subheadings to organize the text on your page.
- Put the most important information at the top of the page and less important information lower on the page. VA App Store pages are designed to support this structure. Learn more in What to Include on an App Page.
- Don’t overuse bulleted and numbered lists. Although they are helpful for breaking up a webpage, a page full of bulleted lists can overwhelm the reader. If you use lists, adhere to the following best practices:
- Ensure entries conform to a consistent pattern and begin with the same parts of speech (for example, bullet points all starting with a noun or verb).
- Capitalize the first word of every entry.
- Use a period at the end of list items if the list items are longer than a few words.
- Use numbered lists only when the order of the items is important, such as in step-by-step instructions.
Don't do this
This app offers appointment scheduling, Secure Messaging, symptom tracking, and medication reminders.
This app offers:
- Appointment scheduling
- Secure Messaging
- Symptom tracking
- Medication reminders
Write Effective Link Text
Links help readers navigate within and between websites. Good link text helps readers know the contents of the page before they visit it and makes pages easier to read.
Tips for effective links:
- Avoid using the URL directly on the page without link text. Also avoid using vague link text such as “learn more” or “download.”
- Use descriptive link text, such as the exact webpage title or document name that the link will lead to. This way, users will know what to expect and can quickly verify that they arrived on the correct page. This also improves search engine optimization because search engines value links that include full page titles (for example, “VA App Store” is better than “Our Website”).
- Place links at the beginning or end of a paragraph or sentence. The reader’s eye naturally gravitates to blue hyperlinks. So placing links at the beginning or end of a paragraph or sentence improves readability and emphasizes the link.
- Links should be used and not talked about. After years of use, readers instinctively understand hyperlinks. There is no need to call special attention to them. So avoid expressions such as “click here,” “website,” or “link.”
- Check your links regularly to make sure they still work. Broken links damage your reader’s trust in the quality of your content. Visit Content Maintenance for more guidance on managing your app page content after it’s been published.
Use Frequently Asked Questions Effectively
Avoid using FAQ on your app page if the information can be easily included elsewhere. FAQ make information harder for your audience to find and process because they duplicate site content, show information outside of logical order, don’t support scanning of the text, and often don’t include keywords. If you must use FAQ, use them to address user feedback and not as the main source of information about an app.
Tips for using FAQ:
- Base FAQ on real user feedback (such as survey responses for help desk queries). FAQ should not be used for self-promotion or as a list of talking points.
- Keep questions short and put keywords early in the question to support scanning.
- Don’t create a question that is already answered elsewhere on your app page.
- Keep your FAQ list short. The more questions you have, the harder they are to read and sort through.
Note: The VA App Store currently displays FAQ in one location on every app page. In the future, FAQ will appear integrated with related content.
Don't do this
How do I get help?
I can’t sign in. Whom do I contact?
What to Include on an App pageWhat to Include on an App page admin Fri, 03/31/2023 - 09:09
All app pages are designed to account for the following types of content. Aside from these tips, you should review Writing for the VA App Store and ensure that all content follows the VA Office of Connected Care Brand Guidelines.
If you need to include content on your app page that is not already accounted for in the standard app page template, do not place that content in a section that seems like the best fit. Email the VA App Store support team, and we will work with you to find the best placement and format for your needs.
All app pages need to start with an introduction that describes what the app is for and why it is valuable.
Don't do this
- Use the introduction to describe how to use the app, list all its functions, or make announcements. These elements are accounted for in other parts of the page.
- Use the introduction for information that you want to communicate that doesn’t fit elsewhere on the app page template.
- Include keywords that your audience would use to find the app.
- Include use cases as examples of why the app is useful.
- Keep it brief. You should say just enough to tell your audience that they’re in the right place and encourage them to keep reading.
If you have timely information for your audience, you can use an announcement. This is an optional page element that you can use at any time.
Don't do this
- Use this for information that is timely but not important and won’t affect users directly. This includes announcing an upcoming feature release.
- Use more than one announcement at once. Instead, focus on the more important information.
- Exceed 60 words.
- Link to more information, if available.
- Include estimated timing about when an issue will be updated or resolved.
- Remove an announcement as soon as it is no longer relevant. If your audience sees an announcement on the page all the time, they may start to ignore it.
All app pages should describe the app’s features and functions.
Don't do this
Exceed six listed items. The list should convey the most important things that your app does, not everything it does.
- Use a bulleted list. See Writing for the VA App Store for guidance.
- Include a lead-in sentence or text for the list, such as “With this app, Veterans can:”
- Start each list item with a verb (for example, “Schedule appointments” is better than “Appointments”).
Getting Started (required)
All app pages should provide guidance on how to access the app for the first time.
Don't do this
- Write disclaimers for third-party apps or explain what a secure sign-in is. The VA App Store includes standard language on all applicable app pages.
- Include contact information in this section. All contact information is included in the Help section. If the contact information is also included here, it will be difficult to maintain should it change.
- Use numbered lists to describe the setup process if it includes multiple steps.
- Use inclusive language (for example, “select” is preferred and often clearer than “click” or “tap”).
- Include inline links to pages with relevant content, such as the secure account credentials page.
Training Materials (optional)
Training materials tell people how to use your app after they have successfully accessed it. Training materials are optional but may be useful for apps with complicated functions.
Don't do this
- Write instructions that only refer to one operating system (such as iOS) if your app is available on several operating systems.
- Rely on PDFs as the sole format for training content. It should be represented in both PDF format and directly on the webpage. Having multiple formats enables your audience to access the training content in a way that is easiest for them.
- Recap information that is available elsewhere on the app page, such as its functions or FAQ, without adding new details. However, it’s fine to repeat information that is also in the training manual document.
FAQ should address user feedback and common questions about the app.
Don't do this
- Include questions that are answered elsewhere on the app page or on other VA pages (including the VA Mobile FAQ page).
- Include questions that don’t reflect your audience’s concerns.
Follow best practices for writing FAQ. See Use Frequently Asked Questions Effectively for more information.
Release Notes (optional)
Provide important function changes made in the latest update of your app.
Don't do this
- Include release information that your audience wouldn’t understand and wouldn’t affect their use of the app, such as under-the-hood fixes.
- Include notes that apply to older versions of your app.
Known Issues (optional)
If your app has any bugs or issues, communicate them with your users. This transparency may minimize users’ frustration and ensure that they keep using the app. It also minimizes the number of complaints you receive on a given issue. Known issues are optional and should be kept up to date.
Don't do this
Leave known issues up on your app page even after the issue is resolved. See Content Maintenance for details.
All app pages have a Help section that covers how users can get assistance in using your app.
Don't do this
Include contact information in any section other than the Help section.
- Include a phone number or an email address — preferably both.
- Use a generic or team email address that is not tied to a specific person. Hyperlink text that describes the team or office that the user is emailing (for example, “Email VA’s National Center for PTSD”).
- Include the business hours during which calls are answered (such as “Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. Eastern time”).
- When referring to time zones, use “Eastern time,” not “Eastern Standard Time” or “Eastern Daylight Time,” which would have to be updated seasonally.
Provide App Feedback (required)
All app pages have a mechanism for users to provide feedback about that app. The text used here is the same across all app pages, and app teams do not need to write any text to support this.
VA App Store filtersVA App Store filters admin Fri, 03/31/2023 - 10:01
Your app does not need to appear under a filter option from every category, but it should appear under at least one filter or tag.
Apps should only appear under a filter if the app is directly related to that topic. For example, an app designed to guide Veterans through meditation practices may have positive effects on Veterans who have trouble controlling anger, but that app should not be tagged with “anger” because that’s not part of the app’s core purpose. Users who search for apps related to anger management would be surprised and confused to find a meditation app appear in their results. The tag “mindfulness, resilience, and goal setting” is more appropriate for a meditation app.
App teams should note what filters apply to their app when filling out the VA Mobile App Intake form (VA Network access required). If your app falls under a topic that is not included in the current filter list, we will discuss whether a new filter is needed.
Mental Wellness and Self-Care
- Alcohol, Drug, and Tobacco Use
- Anger and Irritability
- Anxiety and Stress
- Depression and Mood
- Mindfulness, Resilience, and Goal Setting
- PTSD and Trauma
- Sleep and Insomnia
Physical Wellness and Health
- Brain Health and Strokes
- Diabetes and Kidney Health
- Disaster and Exposure (Apps used in response to crisis events or their aftermath, such as exposure to airborne hazards.)
- Heart Health and Conditions
- Nutrition and Exercise
- Pain and Headaches
- Women’s Health
Care at VA
- Appointment Scheduling
- Automatic Text Alerts
- Benefits (Apps that educate Veterans about VA benefits or help them access their VA benefits.)
- Health Education and Information
- Medication Management
- Scans (Apps used to scan or take images of the body, usually for prosthetics.)
- Virtual Communications
- Video/Virtual Visits
- Symptom Tracking and Screening
- Treatment Companion (Apps that supplement therapy sessions, either during or after the therapy appointment.)
Content MaintenanceContent Maintenance admin Fri, 03/31/2023 - 10:05
Publishing Your App
Visit VA Mobile App Intake to learn how to publish a new app on the VA App Store.
When you need to update your app page content, submit a request by emailing the VA App Store support team. You should also email this team if you need to add content to your app page that is not covered by What to Include on an App Page.
Maintaining Your App
You should submit a page update request as soon as:
- You identify a broken link or a link that will be broken soon (for example, if the app page links to a non-VA website that is changing).
- You have a timely announcement .
Every month, you should:
- Review customer feedback. Does the feedback call for any changes to the FAQ or other content?
- Review your page content for broken links.
Every year, you should do a full review of your app page. Is any information out of date? Is there anything you can streamline or improve?
Retiring Your App
If your app no longer functions, submit a request to remove it from the VA App Store by emailing the VA App Store support team. Submit your request in advance if the app page should be removed by a particular date.