Page content

Web Policy and Guidelines

This file was modified on: January 22, 2018


Send comments to: Melissa Bailey-Harris,

A. Roles of Web-enabled Technology

Support of Web-enabled Mission

The Ohio State University recognizes the value and potential of Web- enabled technology as a tool to support its mission of teaching, research, and service. Therefore, faculty, staff, students, and academic and administrative units are encouraged to take full advantage of the technology available to assist the university in accomplishing that mission.

The university shall develop and maintain a comprehensive Web presence. This presence will be represented by university Web initiatives in instruction, libraries, research and research administration, student services, university, college and department administration and a variety of other university- related activities. Roles of and appropriate usage of Web-enabled technology will be developed.

Ohio State Homepage

The Ohio State homepage will welcome visitors and serve as an institutional direction-finder, as well as a focal point of contact to and from other related Web sites. It is intended to provide information that addresses our constituents and their needs and interests. Selected university operations will have Web sites that will be considered core to the Ohio State homepage. Such Web sites must to meet particular standards of design and organization. Electronic pages that support the university's mission may be linked to the Ohio State homepage and/or reside on university servers.

Other Ohio State Web Sites

University units (faculty, staff, and students therein) that wish to provide information via Web-enabled technology are encouraged to do so. Any academic unit, administrative unit, or individual considering the development of Web pages must clearly define the intent of that site, and, therefore, the resources and content required for it to accomplish associated goals.

B. Web Page Standards

Responsible Use

Contents of all electronic pages must be consistent with The Ohio State University's policies and local, state, and federal laws. This includes links to other pages or computers. Pages found to be inconsistent with such policies and/or laws may be disconnected from the university's homepage and other top level pages. (See CIO: IT Policies and Guidelines: "Policy on Responsible Use of University Computing Resources" at

Anticipate Required Resources

By the nature of Web-based technology, an expectation and a unique and challenging opportunity for currency of information exists. Consideration should therefore be given to the staff and technical resources that will be needed to establish and operate this site on a reliable basis, including appropriate hours of availability. Participation in this distributed technology requires maintenance and currency of information provided. Pages with time- sensitive information that are not maintained may be disconnected from the university's homepage and top level pages. Accordingly, initially it is important to consider the type of Web presence needed and the resources necessary to maintain the site.

Web Site Definitions and Minimal Requirements

1. Static Site

Provides minimal information about the unit or organization that is not likely to change with regularity (i.e., mission, organization, contact information). Recommended for units that do not have resources available on an ongoing basis to maintain Web page information. Such sites can be created using templates and standard graphics that are available at Requires a commitment to respond to inquiries directed to the page's identified Webmaster in an appropriately expedient manner.

2. Reference Site

Communicates information that changes on a regular basis and must be kept current in order to serve the needs of constituents and site visitors. Requires the assignment of a Webmaster within the unit or organization and must be kept current within reasonable expectations. Requires a commitment to respond expeditiously to inquiries directed to the identified Webmaster.

3. Dynamic Reference Site

Provides for a unit to conduct its "business" --instruction, research, administration, service-- via Web-enabled technology and to maintain two- way communication with constituents and site visitors. Significant requisite investment of human and technological resources must be allotted to meet the expectations and needs of the user. Requires continuous staffing to maintain currency and business flow, to enable communication, and to respond to user requirements.

4. Restricted Access Site

Provides a validation system by which users can be authenticated, tracked, and given access to sensitive information. Significant requisite investment of human and technological resources must be allotted to meet the expectations and needs of the user. Requires permanent, constant staffing to maintain currency and business flow, to enable communication, and to respond to user requirements. Other technical issues include, but are not limited to, server access outside of the Ohio State domain, speed of server, number of users allowed on the system, and others.

5. E-Commerce Sites

E-Commerce sites provide a system where users conduct financial transactions by electronic means. E-Commerce often refers to purchases from online stores on the Web, known as E-Commerce Web sites, virtual- stores, or Cyberstores. E-Commerce can either be conducted business to business, or transactions can take place between businesses and consumers. Significant requisite investment of human and technological resources must be allocated to meet the expectations and needs of the user. E-Commerce Web sites require permanent, constant staffing to maintain currency and business flow, to enable communication, and to respond to user requirements. Other technical issues include, but are not limited to, server access outside of the Ohio State domain, speed of server, number of users allowed on the system, and others.

Web Site Security

Web server software needs to be secured. Also, it is important to be aware, if writing executable code or CGI scripts for Web applications, that there are inherent security risks. Knowledgeable programmers should be tasked with reviewing, if not writing of, such code to prevent security problems. Web server equipment and operating systems that Web servers run on must to be secured by knowledgeable network administrators.

Local Responsibilities

The head of the unit assigned responsibility for the site will determine whether it is of benefit to the unit for individual department members and/or its students to have personal pages linked to the unit page.

The head of the unit assigned responsibility for the Web site may, when notified, remove pages and links containing material that violates local, state, or federal laws, or policies of The Ohio State University.

Linking Pages to the University Homepage

University units that link to the university homepage and/ or reside on a university central server must meet the following requirements:

1. The information provided on Web page(s), and any links to it (includes links from the site to other sites), are directly related to the fulfillment of the unit's mission at The Ohio State University.
2. The dean or the department or organization head provides written approval of the link and accepts responsibility for the content of the site and any links that may be made to it.
3. All criteria in the Web Page Standards are followed.
4. The URL ( must be used to request a link to the university's server, or to request space on the server.

Web Site Content

All pages must comply with the university's Policy on Responsible Use of University Computing Resources which requires, among other things, compliance with intellectual property law. No homepage can contain any copyrighted or trademarked material without permission except as permitted by law. Photographs, drawings, video clips, or sound clips may not be used on a page without permission of the person who created them or who owns the rights except as permitted by law.

Where content currency is of concern to the viewer of any Web page, consideration must be made for providing "last revised" or other notice of currency of the information. Different levels of currency should be reflective of the latest practices in the field, the process of doing business, and the historical and archival significance of the information.

All pages directly linked to the university's homepage must contain the following information:

1. identification of the university (See: Brand Guidelines - Masthead);
2. name of the unit publishing the page;
3. university standard navigation (See: Brand Guidelines - Navbar); and
4. name and/or e-mail address of site manager.

When pages are linked from the university's homepage, the unit has to reciprocate on those pages by establishing an easy return to the homepage so that the viewer will not be lost or left unsure of his/her location.

ADA Compliance

Accessibility for all potential users ("ADA compliance") must be implemented when designing Web pages. Specific requirements and resources can be found on our Web Accessibility Standards page, which also references the ADA Coordinator's Office and the Web Accessibility Center.


As with other university promotional and informational communications, advertising should be considered the exception and not the rule. Communication that is deemed to be central to the mission of the university and/or associated unit should be subsidized accordingly.

Exceptions may be appropriate under these circumstances: o the advertising is core to the purpose of the site (i.e., referrals to non-university services of particular interest to the constituent);

1. a site that is determined to be core to the mission of the university and/or the expectations and needs of its constituents requires maintenance resources that exceed internal allocations;
2. when used as references to commercial sites for the purpose of providing an Internet bibliography.
3. acknowledgement of funding sources, proprietary technologies, site developer, and other naming of commercial ventures may be deemed appropriate by the creating unit and may be used in a manner that does not detract from the educational or administrative purpose of the site; such acknowledgement does not constitute and should not imply an endorsement by the university.

Additional advertising considerations include:

1. a site supported by advertising may be better placed in the .com domain;
2. revenue generated by advertising may be subject to unrelated business income tax (UBIT);
3. advertisements or icons that are links to a commercial site may conflict with the interests of the university and involved unit, in that they take the viewer away from the university site, to which a return may be difficult.
4. advertising that is considered in exception of the above policy must not conflict with the intent and primary messages of the page, nor should it reflect an undignified image of the university;


Non-university fundraising may not be conducted on any Web page that is owned by the university or is hosted on the university's network.

Determination of exception to this policy requires the advance approval of the Web Policy Council.

Links to Non-University Web Sites

Links to non-university Web sites should be related to the subject matter of the referring page.

Non-university logos and trademarks should be no larger than 10,000 total pixels, and not larger than any official logo or trademark of the university appearing within that Web site.

Standardization of Page Design, Organization, and Editorial Style In addition to the minimal content requirements specified in the Web Page Standards section, linked pages considered to be core to Ohio State's homepage must present a consistency in design and organization to that of the university homepage. That design and organization is determined by University Marketing Communications.

Pages requiring consistency with the university homepage design and organization include all second-level pages; that is, those linked directly to the first page, and all pages that provide guidance and/or introduction to multiple sites. Exceptions will be considered by the Web Policy Council.

When writing copy, follow the university's Editorial Style Manual published by the University Marketing Communications. (See

Use of University Name and Registered Marks The university logo, as provided in the Graphics File, is for the use of any university academic or administrative unit. It may not be modified in any way. The logo may not be used on an individual's homepage. Use of the Athletics logo and the Alumni Association logo are reserved for use only by those organizations.

Hosting Web Sites for External Entities

Web sites for entities other than university units, university affiliates, or registered student organizations, (e.g., professional associations, consortiums, or journals) may be hosted on university servers only when the entity has a relationship with the university that supports the university's teaching, research, or service missions. Such a relationship may be demonstrated by one or more of the following:

1) The entity is an organization of which the university itself is a member.
2) The entity is an organization of which a faculty or staff member is a member, and the relevant department chair, director, or vice president approves the hosting as being in support of the university's teaching, research, or service missions.
3) The university has, or enters into, a contractual relationship for the hosting with the entity.
4) The Web Policy Council determines that the entity has another relationship to the university sufficient to support the university's teaching, research, or service missions.

Advanced Preparation for Search Tools

The use of search tools within the university Intranet and on the Internet are important for users when locating information. Thus, Web pages need to be constructed to assist the search process by incorporating appropriate HTML tags. This includes the use of the title command and various meta tags.


It is anticipated that Web designers and Web administrators will exercise good faith and good practice in utilization of Web-enabled technology.

When notified, persons assigned responsibility for management of university, unit, or organization Web sites must remove pages and links containing material that violates local, state, or federal laws and regulations and university policies. Failure to comply with these Web Policies and Standards can include removal of the site from university equipment and termination of the reference to the Web machine from the Ohio State domain name server and Ohio State network.

C. Web Site Guidelines

Viewer Technical Issues Considerations

Because constituents have a variety of hardware and software, Web site pages will not look the same to every viewer.

1. Some people browsing the Web have monitors with 16 or fewer colors.
2. Some people will choose not to download graphics and will view text only.
3. Accessibility for all potential users (ADA compliant) must be considered when designing Web pages.
4. Avoid using "Under Construction" pages. Web pages should not be linked together that are not ready for publication.
5. Consider having a text-only shadow page or clickable icons for pictures. Don't overload pages with graphics that will slow the downloading time and frustrate the users. The more complex the graphics, the longer it will take for pages to load. Because pages load from the top down, don't design pages with large graphics files or with all the graphics at the top.
6. Consider the time it takes for viewers to see the pages. Test with a connection at a slow speed (14,400 baud) to check how long it takes for pages to load.

Naming the Site

Determining the domain name for a Web site reflects both a marketing and a technical consideration. In general, shorter names are preferred to longer names. They are easier to communicate, remember, and type. However, too short names and acronyms may be confusing to some users. Ohio State domain names should also be reflective of the name of the university organization that is sponsoring the Web site.

All units, departments, schools, colleges and administrative areas may use a shortened 'OSU.EDU' URL. URLs will maintain a three level naming construction 'NAME.OSU.EDU'. Fourth level names will not be allowed except for the fourth level name 'WWW' to eliminate error messages. (Example:, and

All Ohio State Web sites are free to continue to use their given sub-domains as URLs (, and encouraged to use their three level URLs 'NAME.OSU.EDU' for promoting Web sites.

New URL names may be applied for online at:

The Web Policy Committee chair will approve URL names based first on relevance to an academic area, second on appropriateness to a departmental function, and third on usability by all users of Ohio State Web services. Conflicts of URL name choices will be resolved by the Web Policy Committee on an ongoing basis.

Dot COM Web sites shall not be hosted within the or domain space. Dot ORG sites whose mission is connected to a university department or academic unit may be hosted within the university's domain space.

Web Site File Structure

Communicating a site's URL becomes more difficult if files are organized on the server in an extended directory structure. By planning ahead and creating more directories off of the root directory, instead of creating many layers of sub directories, a single server can be easily expanded over time to create many collaborative Web sites whose URL's can be easily communicated. For example, "" could be more effectively communicated as ""

Site Promotion

Take advantage of the currency of the Web site to supplement or complement printed communications. Promote the URL when appropriate, as well as the Ohio State homepage Site registration and re-registration for free or for a fee is appropriate and recommended as a mechanism to enhance viewer contacts.

Efficient Use of Bandwidth by High Traffic Sites

All Internet traffic between the university network and the outside world flows through a finite "pipeline" that increasingly is at or beyond capacity. The size of that pipeline can be (and regularly is) increased, but only at considerable cost to the university. In order to reduce the strain on available technical and financial resources, university web site hosts and developers should consider the following guidelines:

1. High-traffic sites with significant audiences both within and outside the university network can be optimally served through the use of "mirrored" sites on both sides of the pipeline.

2. High-traffic sites whose primary audience is within the university network ordinarily should be hosted on servers within the university network, even if site development is handled by an outside entity.

3. High-traffic sites whose primary audience is outside the university network may more appropriately be hosted on servers outside the university network, even if site development is handled internally.

Financial Processing

The processing of financial transactions over the Internet raises obvious security concerns. Although technical measures can be implemented to resolve many of those concerns, those measures can be difficult to set up and maintain, are not fool-proof, and inevitably attract hackers to the servers on which they are installed. Accordingly, sites needing online financial processing capabilities must use a secure, off-campus, insured financial processor to meet the expected security requirements. Any bank accounts opened as a result of such activity must have prior approval of the Office of the University Treasurer. Exceptions must be approved by the Web Policy Council.

D. Web Resources and Tools

Various resources and tools will be developed for use by the university community to assist in the implementation of this policy. The Office of University Marketing Communications will provide leadership and coordinate resource information. (See for the current Ohio State Policy, Standards, and Resources for Web Developers.

Send Comments to:

Melissa Bailey-Harris,


return to top