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Web guidelines and procedures

A companion to Policy 12000: Usage of the University Name and the Virginia Tech Identity Standards and Style Guide.

This page was last updated Feb. 27, 2015.

University Web guidelines

The university’s website is an official publication of Virginia Tech. Our print publications utilize a consistent style — a “family” look and feel — and adhere to well-defined identity standards. Similarly, our websites need to use consistent elements and adhere to similar guidelines.

Website scope and target audiences

Virginia Tech’s main website ( serves as its most prominent face to the university community and its many publics. It encompasses the homepage and gateway pages linked from main navigation:

  • About Virginia Tech
  • Academic Programs
  • Admissions and Aid
  • Arts at Virginia Tech
  • Careers
  • Outreach/Extension
  • Research
  • Student Life

The main website also includes other content areas (example: commencement information) and pages (example: privacy statement) housed directly under the domain or one of its secondary pages. 

The target audiences of the main website, as defined by the university, are the following:

  • Prospective students and their parents
  • Current students and their parents
  • Faculty and staff
  • Alumni and friends
  • Corporate and government research partners
  • Guests of the university


The Virginia Tech homepage provides a framework and mechanism for users to locate and retrieve official news and information. The homepage template design is unique and should not be used by any other sites within the domain.

Ensemble content management system templates

Web Communications has made available a family of templates, with multiple design options, for use by academic and administrative units that have adopted the Ensemble CMS. All templates are designed to ensure compliance with the university’s accessibility and security policies. We ask that primary administrative
units (see Appendix A for a complete list) use the family templates provided by Web Communications to ensure a consistent user experience and to support the university’s brand.

Units that use these templates can gain access to modify the design, provided they have received training offered by the CMS team. The director of Web Communications must review and approve all changes and enhancements to existing templates before the modifications are published to ensure brand consistency. When special template needs arise, Web Communications will consider those on a case-by-case basis.

Organizational units — colleges, vice presidents’ divisions, departments, institutes, and centers — that choose to not use family templates and cascading style sheets (CSS) provided by Web Communications are expected to follow these design guidelines:

  • On the organizational unit’s homepage, the Virginia Tech logo must be placed in the upper left corner of the page. No other mark or logo may appear above or to the left of the Virginia Tech logo. Appropriate logos for Web usage can be downloaded from the branding website.
  • On sub-level pages within their websites, units may move the Virginia Tech logo to the upper right corner within the header area, and place their own logo or identity marker in the upper left corner of the page.
  • Use colors from the university’s family color palette
  • Maroon (hex #660000) is the university’s primary color. Orange (hex #ff6600) should be used only as an accent color. Please design your websites accordingly to ensure consistency with family designs. 
  • The preferred locations for primary website navigation are either vertically in the left column or horizontally below the header. This will ensure consistency with family templates.
  • Best practices for navigation prioritize links relative to user needs and importance. We advise against organizing links alphabetically, as usability studies have shown that doing so is essentially the same as random organization.

Responsive templates

In August 2013, University Relations launched a new design theme for the Virginia Tech homepage and top-level pages, such as About, Admissions & Aid, Academics, and Student Life. The new template stays true to existing branding guidelines but expands the flexibility of the design and contains a built-in responsive
solution that makes the site accessible on tablets and smart phones.

The theme that was developed to create these templates is now available in the Ensemble CMS. The homepage template that is used for will not be made available and is not intended to be shared with other units because of its unique role as the university’s main page. The secondary page and additional coding that has been done for the theme to work with other content types in the CMS will be available for use.

Best practices for using the template

  • Use horizontal images wherever possible. They orient better when accessed from a mobile device and fit with this design more cleanly. In some templates, we
    even letterbox vertical images to make them horizontal. Request horizontal studio portraits when you have traditional vertical ones made. Especially for
    your executive staff. Or crop headshots to square.
  • Minimize your top-level navigation. The more items you feature at the top level (remember, seven is the limit for this theme), the more a user will need to scroll through on a mobile screen.
  • Make your text easy to scan: Use subheads to break up large chunks of content.

Ensemble CMS

The Ensemble CMS enterprise solution also is available and incorporates family templates, CSS, workflows, and other processes in a centralized system compliant with standards for security and accessibility. The use of Ensemble CMS and family templates not only will allow participating units to get websites to production more quickly, but it also will save untold work later as they maintain and continue to develop their websites.

Websites utilizing Ensemble CMS will by default be hosted centrally by IT, with the benefits of enhanced security, support, and backup services.

The university is in the process of acquiring a new content management system. It will still be called Ensemble. Updates on the project will be posted to the Ensemble website. The new system will be online by June 2015.

Units that choose to develop custom templates and CSS will be responsible and accountable for ensuring compliance with university standards for security and accessibility.

  • Commercial advertising is not permitted within the domain or any of its subdomains.
  • All websites and Web pages within the  domain must adhere to the university’s Acceptable  Use Guidelines and the Standard for Securing Web Technology Resources.

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