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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 May 12, 2011.

University Web guidelines

A great university website leaves a strong, positive first impression with its visitors, including current and prospective students, their parents, institutional partners, faculty, staff, or the many others seeking information from or about the university. For many, the website serves as their introduction to Virginia Tech. It must communicate in a clear and consistent manner the university's mission, vision, and outstanding characteristics. This is our goal for the Virginia Tech website.

To meet this goal, University Relations and Information Technology have partnered to provide free services to the university community. A Web content management system (Ensemble CMS), catalog of templates, website elements, and consulting services are available to units.

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.

To that end, guidelines governing website design and deployment are a necessary aspect of our concerted Web development strategy. These guidelines are based on industry best practices for Web navigation and usability, and they support Virginia Tech’s Identity Standards, which protect and project our unique brand. Virginia Tech’s homepage, as well as all sub-level pages, will utilize family templates provided by University Relations.

Virginia Tech’s Web guidelines

1. Web Communications offers templates for use by academic and administrative units. CSS files are included with the templates. All templates are designed to ensure compliance with the university’s Accessibility and Security policies. Thus, units that utilize these templates are asked not to alter the layout or design. When special template needs arise, Web Communications will consider those on a case-by-case basis.

2. 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.

3. Organizational units — colleges, vice presidents' divisions, departments, institutes, and centers — that choose to not use family templates and CSS provided by Web Communications are asked 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 (www.branding.unirel.vt.edu).
  • On sub-level pages within their websites, units may move the Virginia Tech logo to the upper right corner of the header area and place their own logos or identity markers in the upper left corner of the page.
  • Use colors from the university’s family color palette, which also is available at the branding website. Please note that maroon (hex #660000) is the university’s primary color, so design your websites accordingly, to ensure consistency with family designs.
  • The primary website navigation should be either vertically in the left column (preferred) or horizontally below the header. This will ensure consistency with family templates. Best practices for navigation prioritize links relative to usage patterns and importance. We advise against organizing links alphabetically, as usability studies have shown that doing so is essentially the same as random organization.
  • Pages should be no more than 960 pixels wide, with the page centered in the browser window. Please note that a print stylesheet will be required to resize a page to 650 pixels for printing in Internet Explorer.
  • The preferred font family for navigation and body text is Arial. The preferred font family for headers is Times New Roman.

4. The Ensemble CMS enterprise solution (www.ensemble.cms.vt.edu) 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.

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

6. If a unit chooses not to use the CMS, its options are:

  • Utilize family templates and CSS, with hosting provided by IT.
  • Utilize family templates and CSS, with local hosting by the unit.
  • Develop custom templates and CSS that follow the university’s design guidelines (see #3 above), with hosting provided by IT.
  • Develop custom templates and CSS that follow the University’s design guidelines (see #3 above), with local hosting by the unit.

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 www.vt.edu domain or any of its subdomains.
  • All websites and web pages within the www.vt.edu domain must adhere to the university’s Acceptable Use Guidelines and the Standard for Securing Web Technology Resources.

Website scope and target audiences

Virginia Tech's main website (www.vt.edu) 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, including:

  • About Virginia Tech
  • Diversity
  • Applying to Virginia Tech
  • Tuition & Financial Aid
  • Student Life
  • Careers
  • Academic Programs
  • Research
  • Outreach/Extension
  • International
  • Sports at Virginia Tech
  • Arts at Virginia Tech
  • Faculty & Staff
  • Alumni & Friends
  • Parents & Family
  • Business & Industry
  • Where We Are

The main website also includes other content areas (example: commencement information) and pages (example: privacy statement) housed directly under the vt.edu domain or one of its gateway pages. Collectively, these pages constitute the top- and second-level pages referenced in this manual.

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

  • 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

Homepage

The Virginia Tech homepage provides a framework and mechanism for users to locate and retrieve official news and information through linked navigation located in the header and left-hand column, and contextual links within the center content area. The homepage template design is unique and is not intended to be used by other sites within the vt.edu domain. 


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