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University Web Guidelines

Table of Contents

Introduction

As Radford University enters its second century, it has embarked on a project to reimagine its web presence. A University Web Communications team housed within the Division of Information Technology has been formed to support this vital project.

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 redesign project seeks to create a consistent image for Radford University. Through words, 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 on Radford.edu will adhere to these guidelines.

We would like to ask academic and administrative departments to adopt the CMS and use the templates provided to ensure a consistent user experience, and to support the university’s brand.

The office of Web Communications will also provide an image size specifications manual to assist content editors throughout campus on the appropriate use and sizing of images.

Hosting Official Departmental Sites

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, 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 to direct people from a Radford.edu address to an off-site address.

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 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 Web Communications prior to making arrangements.

The university strongly encourages official departments or units to utilize the CQ5 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 Web Communications prior to site development.

 Individual faculty, staff or student websites, as well as club sites, do not fall within these guidelines.

Templates

Web Communications has made available a family of templates, with multiple design options, for use by academic and administrative units. The templates are designed to reflect the university’s brand while giving individual units the freedom to express their sub-brand using color and images. When special template needs arise, Web Communications will consider those on a case-by-case basis.

Administrative departments should use one of the three templates provided specifically for administrative departments.  Colleges should use one of the three templates provided for colleges. Academic departments should use one of the two templates provided for academic departments.

General Guidelines

The following are general guidelines for university websites.  Information specific to design, content, color, fonts, photography and videography follows.

  • URLs must be no more than two words.  If there are two words, those words should be linked with a hyphen (-) not an underscore (_), This helps with Search Engine Optimization. In most cases, one word is sufficient. Examples: /deadlines; /tuition; /advising; /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) 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. Utilize 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."

Content 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.
  • 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.

Design

The design of Radford University websites should adhere to the following guidelines to ensure consistency for users.

  • University websites should have no more than eight navigational options in the “top navigation” of the site.
  • Regardless of the number of navigation options, top navigation may not “stack”. 
  • Up to two “Promotional Box” components are permitted per page.
  • Up to two “Sidebar Box” components are permitted per page.
  • Up to five “Featured Links” components are permitted per page.
  • Up to six “Related Links” are permitted per page.
  • Up to 12 “Quick Links” are permitted on a homepage.
  • Up to five “Featured Links” are permitted on a homepage.
  • The “Table” component should not be used for images. Instead use the “Column” component.
  • If no content appears in the “Right Sidebar,” the sidebar should be hidden in the page properties.
  • Links to pages within the Content Management System should not open in a new window or tab. Only when leaving the www.radford.edu domain should links open in a new window or tab.

Color Palette

Color is often linked to an organization’s identity. Consider Target (red and white), John Deere (green and yellow), and Starbucks (green). In higher education, this is particularly highlighted, with most schools have “school colors”. Many of the most prestigious institutions can be identified by color alone.

At Radford University, the official school colors are red and white. A color palette specifically for use on the University's website, has been developed based closely on the official colors in the print palette. All web colors are given in hexadecimal (#ffffff), and RGB (255,255,255) values.

Primary Website Colors

RU-red-Hex
RU-blue-Hex
RU-light-blue-Hex

Secondary Website Colors - Greens

RU-lt-green-hex
RU-med-green-Hex
RU-dark-green-HEX

Secondary Website Colors - Golds

RU-lt-gold-Hex
RU-dark-gold-Hex

Secondary Website Colors - Blues

RU-lt-blue-Hex
RU-med-blue-Hex

Secondary Website Colors - Neutrals

RU-light-neutral-hex
RU-neutral-gray-hex

Fonts on the Web

The university’s body font is Helvetica. The headline font is Trebuchet. The Header font is Frutigar. While serif fonts are considered more "reader-friendly" in print media, it is generally agreed that sans serif fonts like Arial are easier to read online. The university’s content management system has been configured to automatically format copy, headlines and headers in the appropriate fonts.

Photography on the Web

Photography can be a powerful branding tool. High-quality, well-composed photographs can support the university’s brand, demonstrate its excellence and capture the campus’s personality.

Photography for Radford University’s website should be engaging, authentic and compelling. The subjects of the photos should be members of the campus community; stock photography on the Radford University website is prohibited.

  • Images should be no larger than 300k.
  • Images used for anything other than purely decoration must have “alt-text” describing the content in the image.
  • Stock images of people, classes or campuses are prohibited. Any image showing a person, a classroom or a campus must come from the Radford University campus. No photographs of “generic” students, classrooms or campuses are permitted with one exception: when the topic covered on the website is such that a person may not wish to be identified with the topic (i.e., suicide, drug abuse, etc.), stock photos may be used.
  • Collage-style images are discouraged.
  • Images should be sized in accordance with the Radford Image Specs document.

The Radford University content management system has been stocked with high-quality photography that supports the university’s brand. To request custom photography, contact Lora Gordon in University Relations to schedule a photoshoot.

Videography on the Web

Like photography, videography can be a powerful branding tool. Many of the same guidelines that exist for photography also apply to videography.

Professional video should be used for promotion of the university. Examples of this could include a message from the President, student profiles, or a brief overview of the university. Non-professional / YouTube-style video can be used for more content-focused material like plays/shows, yearly commencements or athletic events. Most video produced for the web ranges in length from 30 seconds to five minutes. Video running longer than five minutes should be edited into two videos with shorter running times. The purpose of this is to keep the user’s interest and also to keep video file sizes manageable when uploading and subsequently streaming from the server. Videos should be posted on Vimeo and brought into the CMS using the Vimeo Video component.

Web Communications has a campus resource for the production of videography for Radford.edu. To schedule an appointment to discuss your needs, contact webcomm@radford.edu.

Videography on the web is subject to approval by the Cabinet Web Advisory Group.

Advertising on the Web

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.
    • 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.

Note: The images in the footer of the university website are "badges" received when the university was recognized by those publications and are allowable.