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Introduction and purpose

The purpose of this policy is to provide contributors to DePauw.edu with tools, best practices and requirements to enable you to build strong, user-friendly content for the website’s primary audience (prospective students/families) and secondary audience (current students) about your departments and programs that also aligns with the DePauw University brand themes and web templates. Using information from this guide, site creators and editors can improve the structure of their content and focus information for greatest impact for their web visitors, with additional guidelines for search engine optimization (which places your web content more advantageously in search results so that visitors will see your content) and information about how content is “read” on web pages. Our goal is to make it as clear and simple as possible for you to produce content and/or update information that meets your office or departmental goals.

Who is responsible for or “owns” the DePauw website and web pages?

Ultimately, the University is responsible for all website content, which is why it is important to follow standards and policies to provide as seamless an experience as possible for visitors.

Because individuals in each department are subject experts with the most knowledge of how their area functions and what information needs to be shared, offices and departments that have DePauw website content maintain their own content and ensure that it is regularly updated and accurate, old content is removed, and broken links are corrected. The Division of Communications and Marketing (C&M) provides access and training in the University’s “Bigtree” Content Management System for those staff or faculty designated by colleges, schools, centers, divisions and departments as site stewards authorized to update and edit their web content.

C&M is responsible for design, development and maintenance of all major, top tier, university-level pages that are primarily intended for recruiting, as well as pages providing information for prospective students, families, employees, and alumni. C&M works collaboratively with all areas of campus to:

  • Provide web training on the Bigtree content management system on an ongoing basis for web contributors throughout campus.
  • Provide templates to make it easy for contributors to stay within DePauw’s brand and identify framework.
  • Host and utilize software and systems to identify broken links, accessibility concerns, and other site issues that could lead to a poor user experience and notify site stewards about such concerns.
  • Assist in addressing issues or concerns and provide solutions for unique departmental issues, such as how to organize and simplify complex information for visitors.
  • Provide design and development services, including building back-end infrastructure to provide new functionality or solutions, when needed.
  • Quickly respond to questions and provide troubleshooting.

We encourage anyone who experiences a problem with any site – such as a broken link or dated content – to let us know so that we can act promptly to correct the problem or notify the area’s web contributor/author.

Six core requirements/policies for all institutional web pages

These requirements pertain to official DePauw departmental pages only, not individual faculty websites maintained by faculty members). Note that Information Services has oversight over DePauw’s electronic communications and acceptable use policy, which can be found here: https://www.depauw.edu/handbooks/employee-guide/ecau/

  1. Protect confidential and proprietary information: Do not post confidential or proprietary information about DePauw, students, employees, or alumni. Web contributors, as with all employees, must follow all applicable federal requirements such as FERPA and HIPAA, NCAA regulations, and University privacy and confidentiality policies. Employees who share confidential information do so at the risk of disciplinary action or termination.
  2. Respect copyright and fair use: When posting, be mindful of the copyright and intellectual property rights of others and of the University. Direct questions about fair use or copyrighted material to the copyright and intellectual property manager in University Libraries at rowlending@depauw.edu .
  3. Establish a designated website steward/contributor: All institutional pages or accounts must have an full-time appointed individual (preferably an employee who can provide continuity and minimize the need for transition and new training) who is identified and trained (by C&M) to be responsible for web page content within their office, area, or department. If appropriate, this individual may manage a team of staff members or students who also contribute content, driven by direction of the designated contributor and as approved by the divisional or departmental supervisor.
  4. Review and update content at least once per year (or prior to the start of each term for content that is specific to that term). All offices, areas, and departments at DePauw must ensure accuracy, compliance, and functionality by reviewing their site prior to the start of each academic year to ensure there is no misinformation, outdated or irrelevant content, or broken or misdirected links. C&M, as charged by the Office of the President, reserves the right to remove content or pages that contain erroneous information, inaccessible content or information that violates federal or University requirements; we will always notify the web steward/contributor or area supervisor when content has been or needs to be removed and will assist with republishing content once the issues are corrected.

    Unless targeted toward prospective students or employees, content related to a specific event or period of time should be taken down from a site no later than 30 days after the event or time period has ended. This requirement is essential because content on your web pages that is tied to a specific date or connected to a one-time or infrequent special event (such as an inauguration, celebration, lecture, etc.) quickly becomes irrelevant (i.e., an old syllabus, dated catalog, special academic or co-curricular program, student or faculty presentations from years prior) can confuse visitors to your site, lower the credibility of your site (and, hence, your department or program); and, because it is searchable, can interfere with visitors seeing your highest priority information and most relevant content. Remember that the primary audience is prospective students and families, and secondarily current students, hence the importance of relevant, updated content. Often this type of content can often be archived offline and searchable for internal users for future reference or historical use; C&M can help you determine the best location for this type of information. NOTE: News articles, although dated, are an example of an exception to the best practice to remove dated content monthly; in general, news can remain relevant for up to two years, especially major news or articles that are more evergreen.

    Anytime textual content is updated, double check links! It’s easy to update text and overlook pre-existing links that may no longer go to the right information – especially when they connect to pages outside of your own site that may have changed – or to forget to double check content validity on pages where links aren’t broken. Although C&M has systems and software that search for broken links, and that information is reviewed weekly, those systems don’t know if a working link goes to the wrong destination. A best practice is for a divisional or department head to require the web steward/contributor for that area to set aside time on the calendar prior to the start of each term to go through your pages, click on all links to ensure they link to the correct information, refresh any photos, review text, and report on findings.

  5. Follow University style and identity standards and appropriately use the University logo and marks. As with print publications, all official web pages that use DePauw.edu must adhere to standards for font, colors, logos, and other elements of style; in most cases, because C&M has designed templates that make it easier for web stewards to update content, following these standards will not be difficult. This includes any graphics or photos created and placed on your site or pages. If you have a question about approved marks or usage, you can refer to the Brand Toolkit or contact C&M at communicate@DePauw.edu. 
  6. Adhere to Section 508 and ADA compliance for sites that are intended to provide information to externally facing audiences (for in-class accessibility requirements connected to technology use, contact Information Services). If you work within a University web template, the content management system templates has many built in compliance tools (such as prompts for alternate text tags for photos) and features to make adding or updating content (i.e., basic text, photos) simpler. C&M also trains web stewards/contributors on compliance measures and audits sites for compliance. Note that most PDFs are NOT compliant and an alternative format such as a webpage or shareable Google doc should be used when possible, especially for essential or critically important information. Compliance requirements change frequently and additional information can be found here: Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2 Level AA Conformance.

Guidelines, best practices and resources for web stewards/contributors

Site size: 

Use as few web pages as possible for your department or area: for effective web management and maintenance, and a better user experience, the fewer pages on your department or area’s website the better! The more diffuse your content is and the more links your pages have, the more confusing your site is for the visitor and the more difficult it is for you to maintain. Unnecessary pages should be removed and content made as concentrated and as evergreen as possible. Remember: It is generally better to provide no information than to have extensive information, links and pages that cannot be efficiently maintained or updated.


  • Limit navigation to fewer than seven items and consider combining if you have more. Make navigation titles brief and descriptive.
  • For consistency of the visitor experience, academic pages should include the following as its first three menu items: Majors and minors; Courses; Faculty and Staff.
  • Use highlights, sidelets/sidebars, or footer call-outs to bring attention to things you want to link but may not be appropriate for navigation.

Headings and Subheadings:

Headings and subheadings are provided for your use within the CMS content editor in formatting content appropriately.

  • Header 2 is used for sectioning off content with big headers.
  • Header 3 is used for subheaders.
  • Header 4 is used for calling attention to items, and should be used sparingly.


All normal content should be in paragraph form. Be sure to highlight and ensure your text is formatted with Paragraph rather than pulling in the formatting from Word or elsewhere.

Bulleted/Numbered Lists:

These are encouraged to break up information into easily scanned sections.


Video hosting on BigTree is possible through DePauw accounts only. If you would like to insert a video on a page, be sure the video is uploaded on the DePauw YouTube or Wistia accounts. C&M is able to help format videos for best quality and size.


  • Identify and write for your target audience: This could be prospective students, current students, alumni, or faculty and staff.
  • Web visitors don’t read, they scan, so front-load important information or use bullets. Think: Cliff notes!
  • Walls of text are off-putting to visitors. Break long written content into smaller sections with big headers that identify or summarize the message of the text below (chunking).
  • Use active voice and short sentences: Ideal standard is no more than 20 words per sentence, five sentences per paragraph.
  • Make your headings impactful by using key words and phrases: Sub headers direct users to blocks of information, and readers should be able to scan content to decide what information on your page is important to them.
    • Weak: How can I register for an event?
    • Strong: Alumni Event Registration


  • Use page sidelets/sidebars sparingly. No more than three sidelets should be used per page. It is important to consider how sidelets are viewed on the mobile web, as they will appear after navigation but above all other content in the body of the page.
  • Cluttering the page with fancy widgets divides the visitor’s attention and can negatively impact load times. The goal should be to focus the visitor’s attention on what is important and help them obtain information as easily and quickly as possible.
  • Make sure your main page content is at least as long as the left sidebar. Otherwise, your site develops a ‘tail’ that very few people will scroll to see. Items placed on the left sidebar should complement the content visitors read on the right.

Photos and Galleries:

  • Images should apply to specific page content and be consistent.
  • The best option for photo display is the built in BigTree callouts and photogallery, which are styled to match the rest of the site and give your page a consistent feel. When using photo gallery, use at least three photos, and ensure that photo gallery is a helpful tool for your audience, otherwise, you may unnecessarily distract from your main call to action.  
  • Include a detailed description of the photo no longer than one sentence.
  • Choose fewer, more powerful images, and be sure they are high quality.
  • DO not resize images larger than they originally were in order to fit them. If you’re sent an image that is too small, contact the sender and request a larger or different option.
  • People look at where a person in an image is looking. Consider this when choosing between faces.
  • If adding an image inside a content box rather than using a callout, use consistently sized images. The content box is 700 pixels wide, so resize images to 350px or less. And utilize positioning buttons on the WYSIWYG editor to “float” the image or wrap text.

Additional Resources: