Revised: June 13, 2019
Our digital presence is the public face of Union College. For many, it is their very first interaction with our institution. We want all of our digital visitors to have a pleasing, easy-to-use experience consistent with the Union brand and values.
These guidelines and policies will ensure a consistent level of quality for Union’s digital presence through standard processes, roles, responsibilities and practices.
It is important to note all websites that operate publicly on behalf of an official college entity are strategic assets that belong to the College. Departments and offices serve as caretakers of their sites, experts in their content, and stewards of our brand.
All Union digital initiatives are informed by the following three principles:
Our Digital Audiences Come First
These include prospective and current students, parents, school counselors, alumni, donors, corporate partners, staff and faculty, and people new to Union. Everything from content to design to allocation of resources, is created with their needs in mind.
Public Web Content is Always Available
Search engines, like Google, make it possible for anyone at anytime to find content produced on behalf of Union College. While we strive to respect the hundreds of people involved in the development and publication of such materials, we must acknowledge that our visitors will judge Union College as a whole based upon their experiences.
Our Digital Presence Will Become More Complicated
Public representations were once a single website. Now they can include social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), photos and video, email, apps and various third-party web services.
The people maintaining these presences will change, the tools and services we use will change and our visitors will change. What should not change is the expectation that a visitor is interacting with a world-class institution.
Roles and responsibilities
Site Owners must be full time staff or faculty members and have ultimate responsibility for the accuracy and management of their site. This is generally the department chair/director unless otherwise designated.
Their responsibilities are:
- Creating content and/or collaborating with the Content Maintainer to do so.
- Identifying a primary and secondary Content Maintainer(s) for their department.
- Requesting permission changes for Content Maintainer (both granting and terminating access).
- Ensuring Content Maintainer complete and remain up-to-date with CMS training and best practices.
- Ensuring content maintenance, including social media, is sustained through staff transitions.
Content Maintainers are responsible for the day-to-day maintenance of their website. Their responsibilities are:
- Ensuring all content, including text, photo, videos and PDFs, whether posted themselves or with the assistance of other staffers and/or supervised student workers, is in accordance with the governance guidelines, Union’s best practices document and the ITS Acceptable Use Policy.
- Creating content at the direction of, or in collaboration with, the Site Owner.
- Completing and remaining up-to-date on CMS training and best practices.
- Transfer all facets of content maintenance, including social media, to other staff as part of employment transitions.
Content Maintainers should be mindful of the following concepts:
- Accessibility - considerations related to content for visitors with disabilities (more info)
- Security/privacy - browser warnings (Content Maintainers must attend ITS security awareness sessions)
- Responsive content organization - consideration of how content layout appears on multiple devices
- Browser testing with regards to Windows/Mac, mobile devices and multiple browsers
- Performance/speed optimizations - file size
Communications will engage with Content Maintainers on these various concepts by providing guidance and best practices. Content Maintainers are only expected to sustain a general awareness. Communications and ITS will resolve most issues.
Content Maintainers are required to be familiar with Union College’s Data Classification Policy that defines what type of information can be stored where.
Content Maintainers are expected to demonstrate a willingness to research concepts, skills and solutions and adapt to ongoing changes in technology.
Office of Communications and Marketing
The Office of Communications and Marketing is dedicated to the stewardship of the official public digital identity of Union College. Their primary focus is on external presentations related to recruitment, alumni and parent relations. They will strive to ensure the public representations of the college reflect the caliber of Union.
Information Technology Services
Information Technology Services (ITS) delivers a wide range of technology resources and support services to further Union College’s institutional mission and goals. Our web focus is the internal Union community, including current students, faculty and staff. We will implement and support the required web infrastructure and maintain current systems and tools in a manner consistent with IT security best practices.
Web Working Group (WWG)
To ensure public digital representations reflect the caliber of Union College, the Web Working Group will develop policy, practices and standards for the development and management of all web content, which consists of all visible aspects of the web, including but not limited to: architecture, accessibility, colors and fonts, design, identity standards, navigation, text and images. This group will also develop practices and systems for monitoring the quality and effectiveness of our digital presence, including but not limited to the periodic audit of content and the use of analytics to monitor traffic. Lastly, this group will select technology, including but not limited to a content management system (CMS), and set procedures for the management of such systems to further the goals and operation of our public digital presence.
Chaired by CCO and CIO; membership includes Senior Web Developer (ITS), Director of Web Communications (Communications), Associate Director of Web Communications (Communications), Director of Enrollment and Operations (Admissions).
The WWG can be contacted by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Web Advisory Group (WAG)
The role of the Web Advisory Group (WAG) is to offer input and recommendations to the Web Working Group (WWG). Proposed changes to policies and procedures will be presented to the WAG. The WAG will offer perspective from the areas they represent to help inform the work of the WWG. The WAG will also act as a conduit to the various areas they represent and will bring information back to those areas to help keep them informed.
Membership will include broad representation from faculty and administration.
The WAG can be contacted by emailing email@example.com.
Web Steering Committee
This committee will react to recommendations; make major policy decisions; help identify staffing and resources if/when requested.
Consists of the VP College Relations, VP Academic Affairs and VP Admissions, Financial Aid and Enrollment, staffed by CCO and CIO. This group will consult with Senior Staff when necessary.
Content Maintainers are primarily responsible for content maintenance and quality.
Communications & Marketing is empowered to take corrective action on content not adhering to College standards to ensure public digital representations reflect the caliber of Union College. Content Maintainers will be notified when substantial changes (anything beyond simple corrections) are made.
- Gross misspellings such as Unoin, reseach, frist, opportunites
- Links to unsafe domains will be removed or updated when the correct destination is known
- Outdated/incorrect information such as references to Union Graduate College, tuition, programs no longer offered through the College like MAT, freshman will be removed or corrected
- Improper logo usage
- Issues that limit accessibility (see Accessibility below)
Public digital content administered through Union College offices
Offices will provide access or grant permissions with associated vendors to Communications & Marketing so that severe content problems (referenced above) can be corrected as soon as possible. Communications may apply design adjustments consistent with the Union brand. Content Maintainers will be consulted when substantial changes (anything beyond simple corrections) are considered.
Personal public digital content
Websites that utilize the union.edu domain for personal purposes such as faculty, staff, student and course websites are not required to grant access to Communications & Marketing staff.
Mass emails sent on behalf of a Union College office, program or department using a third party vendor (not Gmail) shall have design templates reviewed by Communications. Organizations engaged with mass emailing should contact Office of Communications & Marketing to arrange a review of example email designs for best practices.
Contact information must be readily available on sites for visitors to reach someone responsible for the content.
Quality assurance reports
When possible, reports will be provided to users that cover topics such as links, spelling, accessibility, security, performance and other best practices. Content Maintainers are responsible for resolving errors and false positives (ie potential misspellings) in the Quality Assurance service. These reports must be transitioned to new staff who assume maintenance duties. Site Owners are encouraged to receive copies of any such reports.
Institutional websites such as www.union.edu will be held to higher standards. This does not include faculty, staff, student or course websites. The Office of Communications and Marketing strives to provide a consistent look, feel and voice to our external audiences. Content may be edited/altered as needed for clarity, grammar, spelling, usage, and style, as well as to conform with college naming conventions and branding. Any significant alterations will be discussed with the responsible office.
Sites that are out-of-date or abandoned may be “hidden” from search engines by the direction of the Chief Communications Officer. Site Owners will be notified of this action.
Sustained content maintenance
Content Maintainers are expected to maintain the content within their respective sites. If there is an expected interruption in support for a site due to such things as a staff departure or leave of absence the current Content Maintainer should make arrangements with a colleague to transition maintenance duties (include social media sites in this transition). This ensures that content can remain current.
Sites that are abandoned by an office because there is no Content Maintainer transition will become the responsibility of the appropriate Responsibility Center for the College and a corresponding existing Content Maintainer within that Responsibility Center. If an abandoned site cannot be assigned to an existing Content Maintainer the site may need to be unpublished, locked or hidden from search engines. Web Communications will work with the individual in charge of the office or department responsible for the site to resolve the issue.
Social Media Challenge
Social Media accounts can be extraordinarily difficult if an office loses access via a staff transition. Plan accordingly.
Sites referenced in upcoming promotions
If a site is referenced in an upcoming promotion (ie mass email) the response time may be as short as 1 day to ensure the promotion timetable remains intact.
When possible, institutional websites should include an analytics tracker(s) as determined by the Web Working Group. This ensures an overall awareness of traffic that can be used to focus quality assurance efforts and resource allocation. Reports will be provided upon request.
Reasonable efforts must be made to secure any public digital representation of the college. This may include secure (https) connections for authenticating users or collecting sensitive data. Security warnings/errors from browsers should be rectified as soon as possible.
Union College strives to meet WCAG 2.0 Level AA accessibility guidelines with public content representing an official office or department. This is not only an affirmation of Union’s mission and strategic goals but also a legal obligation.
Ongoing accessibility scans for most College sites are available.
Microsoft Office Documents
Due to web accessibility, security and compatibility issues, Word/Office documents should not be posted online. Instead, convert them to accessible PDFs.
If a website collects personally identifiable information, it must adhere to the Data Classification Policy and disclose to the visitor the purpose of the collection and how the data will be used. Furthermore, the data cannot be used for any other purposes other than the stated purpose on the website.
Secure (https) connections are required for all pages. Ensure these connections are secure through testing on multiple browsers, OS’s and mobile devices.
Third party links, services and applications (vendors)
Links on institutional websites are an endorsement from the College to visitors and search engines. Links to sites that have content quality, security, or accessibility problems may be removed.
There are many existing tools to solve problems and improve services that departments and offices want to provide to their constituents. These tools may also come with a variety of problems such as security, accessibility and privacy concerns that could harm the visitor and the College. Before committing to any new service, tool or application offices must contact ITS by emailing the ITS Help Desk at firstname.lastname@example.org. This extra step can provide a critical layer of protection for our digital visitors.
Domains and subdomains related to Union College
union.edu and unionathletics.com are examples of domains.
muse.union.edu and uconnect.union.edu are examples of subdomains
New domains or subdomains for public content are not a common practice. Any new requests for public domains or subdomains must be reviewed and approved by the Web Working Group via email@example.com and any domain purchases must be made via ITS.
Copyright violation is a serious offense that comes with strict penalties for which the College itself could be held liable. It is your responsibility to ensure that all of your content, including text, images, video and music, complies with all copyright laws. Any content on the Union website that does not comply with the copyright policy will immediately be removed and the content owner will be notified.
Content Maintainers are responsible for addressing issues related to the aforementioned policies and guidelines. If no attempt is made to address violations within a reasonable timeframe (~2 weeks) Communications will contact Site Owners. Sites ultimately fall under the appropriate Responsibility Center and corresponding VP.
Reassignment of content maintainer responsibilities
Communications will determine if responsibilities need to be reassigned to another trained staff member and will contact the Site Owner.
- Content Maintainer doesn’t demonstrate general technical competency
- Errors persist for long periods of time
- Content Maintainer requires repeat support for the same issue
Sites that are out-of-date or abandoned may be taken down (hidden from public viewing) by the direction of the Chief Communications Officer. Site Owners will be notified of this action if they can be determined.