NIU Web Standards

The current standards were approved by the Web Steering Committee on June 27, 2023.

The standards will be reviewed and updated annually by the committee. Please check back for announcements and updates that are released between the annual reviews of this document.

Notable changes since last revision

  • 2.2. Use of NIU Logos and TrademarksText was added to indicate that web banners must match the site sub-brand, if applicable.
  • 2.3 Use of Third-party Advertising and Logos: Text was added to guide the placement of decorative elements designed by Creative Services.
  • 3.3 Privacy Policy: Text was added to clarify that college communicators are responsible for maintaining waivers for the release of student information, and to specify that non-university email addresses shouldn’t be included on NIU sites.
  • 4.3 Honorifics and Post-nominal Letters: Text was added to specify that Dr. may be used when part of an official name (program, scholarship, etc.).
  • 5.1.5 Content Readability: The information on tables was moved out of this section into its own section, 5.1.6 Tables.
  • 5.1.8 Event Listings, Pages and Sites: This new section combines the former 5.1.7 Event Listings and Event Pages and 5.1.8. Event Websites. The guidelines for determining if an event should have its own website were simplified.
  • 5.1.10 Faculty, Lab and Student Organization Websites (now 5.1.11): Text was edited to indicate that webpages containing general information about student organizations can be hosted in Cascade, if appropriate.
  • 5.1.13 Forms and Fillable PDFs (now 5.1.12): Text was edited to indicate a strong preference for online forms and to offer the assistance of the web team in creating online forms.
  • 5.2 Website Structure: Text was added to indicate that descriptive words should be used in system names instead of acronyms or long names.
  • 5.3 Navigation was changed to 5.3 Navigation and Contact Blocks. Text was added to the section to indicate that a child site should contain a link back to its parent site. A new section was added to address what information a contact block should contain.
  • 5.6 Headings: Text was added to indicate that you should not make a heading a link.
  • 5.7 Links: Text was added to indicate that the file type should appear in all caps at the end of a link to a document. For example: Read the web standards (PDF).
  • 5.8.1 File Types: Some bulleted items were edited to reflect a preference for web forms and .shtml content to PDFs. Text was added to indicate that a link to an accessible Word or PDF document should be provided along with a link to a document on ISSUU.
  • 5.9.2 Image Sizes and Dimensions: Text was added to indicate that how an image would appear after cropping should be considered when selecting images for a site.
  • 5.8.9 Photo Galleries changed places with 5.9.9 Social Media Icons.
  • 5.10 Video: Text was included to indicate that a transcript that includes any text that appears in the video should be provided.

Introduction and Purpose

1.1 Providing the Best Content Possible

NIU's website is the face of NIU, often the first impression visitors have of the university, and we want their experience to be a positive one. We have created the following standards and best practice guidelines to ensure a consistent and unified user experience for our visitors. They are intended to assist any member of the NIU community involved with creating, updating or reviewing an NIU website.

The standards were collaboratively written by members of the NIU web team, approved by the Web Steering Committee and president of the university, and grounded in thorough research of industry standards and best practices for usability and lawful accessibility compliance. The standards are subject to change as laws and university policies evolve.

Our guiding principles for web governance of the domain are:

  • All pages should be audience-centered (student first) and consistently use the NIU brand.
  • All pages should have a content strategy, featuring an intuitive navigation and relevant (audience focused) and current content that is optimized for search engines.

1.2 Content Ownership, User Access Rights and Responsibilities

All subdomains and subsites within the domain belong to, and are representative of, the university. Colleges and divisions serve as caretakers of their websites, experts in their content and stewards of NIU's brand.

The university's central Office of Web and Internal Communications (web team) has access to all areas of the website and, to ensure quality control, will edit/alter content as needed for clarity, grammar, spelling, usage and style, as well as to conform with university naming conventions and branding. The university reserves the right to revise or delete content housed either on university IT resources or external resources that does not meet acceptable use guidelines or the standards outlined in this policy.

In collaboration with the department, college or division, the web team will determine a maintenance and support plan for each site on the domain. Based on the number and type of updates per week, the plan will include identifying a coordinator, contributor or manager user role to maintain the site:

  • Most users are coordinators and use the web update request form to get updates made. This role is sufficient if you make infrequent web updates, don't have enough time to keep current with web standards and Communication Standards for Institutional Brand Identity, or are part of a team with multiple people making web updates. Temporary employees and graduate assistants would be classified as coordinators.
  • Contributors make content updates in Cascade and submit them for review and publishing by the web team. This role is ideal if you make at least one update per week and IT/web maintenance is a significant part of your job description.
  • Managers will be identified by the web team in collaboration with college or division leadership.

The web team will invite coordinators, contributors and managers to complete annual training to stay current on web standards and best practices.

If it is determined that a user is making updates to their site that do not align with web standards, a senior member of the web team and/or the college communicator will meet with them to review the standards. Continued updates that do not align with web standards may result in additional training requirements or suspension of access to the CMS.

1.3 Governance and Collaboration

Web governance is defined as a system for managing an online presence in an orderly way.

At NIU, web governance is facilitated through the Web Steering Committee. The committee's objective is to provide collaborative centralized governance for the ongoing development, deployment, delivery and maintenance of the domain and to consistently represent the Northern Illinois University brand online through standard processes, roles, responsibilities and practices.

Primary support for and associated sites is led by the Office of Web and Internal Communications (web team) in the Division of Enrollment Management, Marketing and Communications. The director of digital strategy provides oversight and strategic direction for the university's web presence. The assistant director of web communications reviews requests from academic and administrative stakeholders, sets priorities and apprises the Web Steering Committee of projects and plans.

The web team also provides training for page managers and support for all web pages. The team also maintains the web standards document and provides administrative support for the Web Steering Committee.

1.4 Support

We support web pages for compatibility with the current version and previous major release of the following browsers:

  • Chrome
  • Firefox
  • Safari
  • Edge

Older browser versions may work, but not all web applications may be compatible. For this reason, we recommend that users update to the most recent version of their preferred browser. We also recommend that any web applications utilized meet the same criteria as stated above.

To request an update to a website, visit

To request a new website, visit

Contact Us

For more information about web support and development, contact: 

Holly Nicholson
Still Hall 110

View the PDF version of the Web Standards

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