Skip to Navigation
University of Pittsburgh
Print This Page Print this pages

July 12, 2001

University establishes guidelines for development of web pages

As more people are getting more information via the Internet, Pitt's administration wants University web sites to present a consistent graphic image and content.

This month, the Office of Public Affairs issued web design guidelines and recommendations for Pitt units, as part of a three-year initiative.

As of July 1, new or substantially updated Pitt web pages (defined as those with in the address) must include:

1. The use of the web-tailored University seal, with or without logo type, on each home/portal page;

2. A graphic or text link to Pitt's home page;

3. Contact information for the person designated to maintain the web page, and

4. The date of the most recent site update.

"We're not the 'web police,'" said Robert Hill, executive director of Public Affairs, "but we'll be looking to see that the standards that are agreed to and set forth in this plan are respected, so that there is a consistency and accuracy of Pitt's continuously improved presence on the web. We will call attention to departures and be available to solve problems and answer questions."

Hill is overseeing the implementation of the three-year initiative. Public Affairs manages the design and content of Pitt's homepage ( and web pages directly linked to it, called top-level pages.

The plan was developed with input from the Provost's Advisory Committee on the University's Presentation on the World Wide Web.

The strategic plan stresses that accountability for the quality and accuracy of the content on Pitt web sites rests with the individual units that create and maintain them. Departments may develop their own web sites or use the services of Public Affairs on a fee-for-service basis.

"If you want it done extremely well, and know that the work is reliable and know that it is right along with what the University is doing, you should use our service," Hill said.

In limited cases, Public Affairs will coordinate web site development with select external vendors for University departments, according to the plan.

For departments that choose to go it alone, Public Affairs expects to develop a web site by this fall that will provide graphics guidelines, including colors, logo treatments, typefaces and navigation formats; tips on designing and writing for the web; an on-line hotline for questions; links to relevant University policies and procedures; links to related web training courses offered at Pitt, and copyright information, in addition to downloadable graphics and templates for web site beginners.

"We will also set up an e-mail address for soliciting feedback about our web presence and an e-mail registry of individuals who create and maintain web sites, to provide them useful information and updates," Hill said.

Public Affairs plans to work with Computer Services and Systems Development to track site visitor rates and profile site visitors to determine strategies for future redesigns of the home page and top-level pages. The plan calls for a design make-over about every two years.

According to the strategic plan, research shows that the top four factors driving repeat visitors to web sites are: quality of content, ease of use, download speed and update frequency, factors that Public Affairs expects to monitor closely, Hill said.

Plans also call for an increased web-based video capability; more news and events links to the homepage, including a searchable University-wide events calendar; an enhanced virtual tour of the Pittsburgh campus with 360-degree panoramic shots, and an expanded array of top-level pages.

Hill said that costs related to the implementation of the plan are minimal. "The most significant expense was in establishing a centralized web management operation at the University, which, through the Office of Public Affairs, was accomplished in July 2000," he said. "But these things have less cost implications than they have operational implications, in the organizing, managing and unifying the University's presence on the web. We're not spending much more than if we were less organized and, willy-nilly, putting up on a web site information that might get updated or might not."

In anticipation of Pitt's growing reliance on the web, Public Affairs will work with Human Resources to develop web-related job descriptions, Hill said.

"This is important, because this is an ever-evolving, fast-changing realm, and we want to make sure that we are not victims of fly-by-night people who say they can do something and can't, so we want to be precise in what our needs are, and we have the expertise here to help with that."

Hill said his office will no longer hire an editor or graphics designer who is not web-savvy. "I think as departments continue to more precisely define their web needs, there will be a need for more people who can manage that technology, in order to make sure you're current, accurate and appealing in a way that audiences need you to be in a very competitive world."

The Public Affairs executive director said the day of print communications is fading. "Nobody is going to apply to college anymore using paper. You can be the poorest kid in the most depressed ghetto and go to the corner library, and just like you would go to the library to read a book if you don't have books, now you go there to get on-line."

As an example, he cited Pitt's Office of Admissions and Financial Aid, which received 17,245 e-mails from students and parents in fiscal year 1999-2000 — up from 6,288 the year before — and 7,200 on-line applications.

"All of the media through which we communicate the University's stories and messages will have an involvement with the web. If we publish a magazine, we put it up on the web; give a speech, the text version goes up; shoot a video, you change it to CD-ROM format; have a big ceremony, you can invite people to come out and sit in person or watch it on the web. The world is going to be interactive, and we're going to be right up there with it."

Hill said questions about the web site development initiative should be directed to John Cooper, Public Affairs senior webmaster/web supervisor, at 4-4353; e-mail:

–Peter Hart

Leave a Reply