University Web Guidelines
The Radford University website serves a variety of audiences and is often the first impression prospective students, parents, faculty and staff have of the institution. The community, state and national legislators, the media, alumni, donors and other constituents also visit and form ideas about the campus based on what they find. Additionally, the site is a daily part of the lives of the campus community.
The website should offer a consistent image for Radford University. Through words, banner images, site architecture, colors, fonts and key messages, the site will reflect who we are and where we are to its many audiences.
The university’s website is an official publication of Radford University. As one of the primary – and often the first – connection points for external audiences, the site must reflect the university’s strengths and distinctiveness. Guidelines for website design that address identity standards and best practices for navigation and usability are put in place to protect the Radford University brand.
The Radford University homepage and all other sites within Radford.edu will adhere to these guidelines.
College, academic, and administrative departments adopt the CMS and use the templates provided to ensure a consistent user experience, and to support the university’s brand.
The Digital Communications and Marketing team also has an image size specification guide [PDF] to assist content editors throughout campus on the appropriate use and sizing of images.
All official Radford University departments – including academic departments, colleges, schools, centers, minors and administrative departments – will have their websites hosted on the Radford.edu domain. Using the hosting services of external providers, such as WordPress.com for official university sites, is not permitted. The Radford University website will not link to any official departmental sites that are hosted off campus and no redirects will be put in place.
Hosting sites on the Radford.edu domain signals to stakeholders visiting the pages that the site is providing official information about the institution. Further, it ensures that Radford University “owns” the content and has the ability to modify or delete the site if necessary.
Use of the university’s content management system is the most efficient way to ensure continuity should the person maintaining a website leave the university; a new individual can be trained and given access to the content management system. Finally, it ensures compliance with the Freedom of Information Act should requests be made for content on official university sites.
Exceptions to this guideline are made on an individual basis and require a business purpose for the site to be hosted off-campus. For example, if the site has the need to collect funds or credit card information, that portion of the site may be hosted by an external vendor. Departments or units who require such an exception should contact DIgital Communication prior to making arrangements.
The university strongly encourages official departments or units to use the AEM Content Management System for new site development. Exceptions to this guideline are made on an individual basis and require a business purpose. Departments or units who require such an exception should contact Digital Communications and Marketing prior to site development.
Individual faculty, staff or student websites, as well as club sites such as student clubs, centers or organizations, do not fall within these guidelines as they are not eligible to use the CMS.
All Radford University websites are built within templates developed specifically for units whether it is a college, academic or administrative unit. The templates were developed to reflect the university’s brand, using large banner images on each page. When special template needs arise, Digital Communications and Marketing will consider those on a case-by-case basis.
The following are general guidelines for university websites. Information specific to design, content, color, fonts, photography and videography follows.
- URLs should be no more than two words, all lowercase, separated by a hyphen. If there are two words (or in rare instances, more than two words), those words should be linked together by a hyphen (-) not an underscore (_), this helps with Search Engine Optimization. In most cases, one word is sufficient. Examples: /deadlines; /tuition; /advising. Otherwise, two words should fulfill the needs of the URL name. Examples: /family-weekend; /help-desk.
- Use descriptive file names. File names for images, PDFs, Word documents or other files uploaded to the Digital Asset Manager should be descriptive to aid in Search Engine Optimization. Spaces in a file name should be replaced with a hyphen (-) not an underscore (_). Examples: information-request-form; roommate-request-form; application-for-admission-2012; tuition-waiver-form
- Use appropriate page descriptions. Page descriptions (found in Page Properties) should be limited to 200 characters and should include the words “Radford University” within the description to aid in Search Engine Optimization.
- Avoid using "RU." The acronym “RU” is discouraged; spelling out Radford University aids in Search Engine Optimization.
- Tell people when they are opening a PDF. When linking to a PDF, (PDF) or [PDF] should follow the link to indicate to users that they will be opening a document rather than visiting a page.
- Create links that are useful. Use descriptive, clear, and user-friendly words and phrases when adding hyperlinks links to a section of text. Avoid putting links in a section that aren't clear about where they will take the person who clicks them. For example, make "Apply to the program" as the linking words instead of just "click here." See accessibility guidelines.
Content appearing on Radford University websites must meet the following requirements:
- Be substantially complete. “Under construction” pages are not permitted. If a page must be published before complete content is available, provide as much information as possible with a note that more information will be coming soon.
- Provide timely information. Outdated information or announcements should be removed to avoid confusion among visitors. Event announcements or event microsites should be deactivated following the event. The pages may be saved for use in the future but should not remain live after the event.
- Link to standardized content. Information such as the course catalog, tuition information, admissions requirements, etc., should be linked to or pulled in with the “Reference” component. This ensures that when the content is updated by its owner, it is reflected across the university’s websites.
- Follow AP Style.
- Be accessible to individuals with visual or physical impairments. Images used for anything other than purely decoration must have “alt-text” describing the content in the image. Charts and graphs presented visually must have “alt-text” descriptions of the content. Alt-text should avoid the use of acronyms. See more accessibility guidelines.
- Contact information must be available. Contact information for the unit must be published on the site, preferably within one click of the site’s homepage.
The primary font for Radford University is Gotham. The www.radford.edu website automatically uses Gotham and it cannot be changed.
Consistent with Radford University and commonwealth policy on the appropriate use of equipment, the Radford University website (signified by the address "radford.edu") cannot be used for commercial, non-mission-related purposes. This means that advertising cannot be sold at any level of the website.
Advertising refers to any situation in which Radford University or one of its units receives payment or in-kind gifts in exchange for a link or brand placement on a Radford University website. While advertising cannot be sold at any level, links to commercial vendors may be made in the following specific situations:
- Licensed software required for Web viewing:
- The logo or graphic represents licensed software on which a core function of the page is based (for example, Netscape, Adobe Acrobat Reader, RealAudio, VeriSign).
- Links to separately contracted vendor:
- The logo or link is to a vendor or other entity separately contracted to provide services to the University (TIAA, Fidelity Insurance, etc.).
- Sponsorship Recognition:
- Within a unit’s website, a text-only link may be posted on the homepage of the site.
- Within a unit's website, a logo can be displayed at that unit's second level page or below to acknowledge support of the unit's mission-related activities through sponsorship. Such logos or links are deemed to be recognition of corporate or other external sponsorship; payment may not be accepted for that link or logo. The logo should not appear larger than 150 pixels by 150 pixels.
- Obtain a sponors permission before using their logo or link on your website.
- Such links should go to the home page of the entity's Web site and, wherever possible, links should not go to pages on which products or commercial services are offered for sale. The logo, text, or graphic should not include any qualitative or comparative language or descriptions of the non-University party's products, services, facilities, or company, including but not limited to price information, inducement to purchase, endorsements, savings, or value.
- Logos for sponsors or other corporate recognition on a unit's homepage will not be allowed.