Cornell University Web Communications Standards

These are the minimum requirements for the development and maintenance of university and university-affiliated websites and web applications.

Outline the business goals for the project

Ensuring strategic alignment for all website and web applications development at the earliest phases will guarantee the most efficient and impactful use of time and resources.

  • Demonstrate alignment with the unit/parent unit strategic plan required by the communications functional review
  • Demonstrate alignment with the university leadership strategies per University Relations
  • Define key performance indicators for the website or application
  • Demonstrate existing budgets, resources and/or skilled staff in place for supporting these goals for the long term
  • Demonstrate stakeholder engagement in goal development
  • Demonstrate unit leadership engagement and approval process

Ensure quality content and content management best practices

Consistent adherence to a communications strategy and aligning with the mission of the university is essential for project success. Reference the university nomenclature page to ensure proper use of naming when communicating about Cornell.


  • Demonstrate content alignment with the unit/parent unit strategic plan required by the communications functional review
  • Outline a content strategy and editorial calendar in support of the unit's strategic plan
  • Demonstrate content approval process throughout the unit's chain of command
  • Demonstrate a near-term and long-term process for inventorying and auditing content in place
  • Identify content owners for managing and updating content and ensuring compliance with performance and content standards
  • Identify content producers and alternate sources to ensure fresh content
  • Identify and share throughout the unit standard performance benchmarks for content and a basic reporting process
  • Demonstrate a process with partner units that ensures alignment and agreement with overlapping communications strategies, limiting messaging contradictions between units, ensuring a unified presentation of Cornell
  • Demonstrate adherence to basic quality assurance with imagery:
    • Diversity and inclusion
    • Editorial and message alignment
    • Contemporary look and feel
    • Optimal quality of resolution, composition, small file size for optimal load times and other UX concerns
  • All images, graphics, fonts, and content should be licensed or otherwise properly authorized for use.

Ensure university and unit brand compliance and uniform design standards

All websites must comply with university policy 4.10. Following the guidelines published on the Brand Center will provide a robust, unified experience for audiences while bolstering the Cornell brand on a larger scale.


  • Demonstrate alignment with the university color palette and standards for color applications and distributions
  • Demonstrate compliant applications of university/college/school/unit logos, marks and secondary graphics and the guiding principles of the university brand architecture
  • Demonstrate compliance with university nomenclature and naming standards in all applications, written and verbal
  • Demonstrate design coherence and agreement with relevant partner properties

Align with university policies throughout the website lifecycle

Policies are created to protect the university and promote best practices. Policies related to communications, branding and website ownership can be found on the Brand Center.


Policy 4.3 "Sales Activities on Campus"

Cornell University allows limited sales to be conducted on its properties in ways that are consistent with the university's mission, take account of off-campus businesses, and comply with applicable laws and regulations.

Policy 4.10 "Use of Cornell's Name, Logos, Trademarks, and Insignias"

Cornell University allows the use of its name, and its logos, trademarks, insignias, and other indicia only with permission, as set forth in the principles and procedures of this policy.

Policy 4.11 "Establishing a New University-Related Subsidiary or Affiliated Corporation"

The university imposes tight controls on the creation of subsidiary and affiliated corporations (and related communications assets) to exercise responsible stewardship over the university's tangible and intangible assets, to manage risk exposure, and to facilitate compliance with reporting and other legal requirements.

Policy 4.16 "University Social Media Accounts"

Cornell authorizes the creation and use of university social media accounts, provided their use is professional, protects the reputation and brand of the university, and complies with Cornell policies and applicable laws and regulations.

Policy 5.6 "Recording and Registration of Domain Names"

This policy provides the criteria for three-part domains, the method for requesting three-part domains, and alternatives.

Policy 5.10 "Information Security"

Cornell University expects all institutional information stewards and custodians who have access to and responsibilities for institutional information to manage it according to the rules regarding storage, disclosure, access, classification of information and minimum privacy and security standards as set forth in this policy.


Policy 5.12 "Web Accessibility Standards"

Cornell University is committed to providing an environment in which all people have an equal opportunity to participate in the university's programs, activities, and services. To support this environment, all new, newly added or redesigned university web content, web pages, web functionality, websites, and web applications must be made accessible to people with disabilities to the standard prescribed by the most recently published Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), except where doing so would result in a fundamental alteration in the nature of a service, program, or activity or in undue financial and administrative burdens.

When fundamental alteration or undue burden applies, equally effective alternative means of access must be provided so that, to the maximum extent possible, individuals with disabilities receive the same benefits and services.


  • Demonstrate alignment with other policies that govern the unit's line of business in function.
  • Demonstrate alignment of all unit communications with the campus code of conduct and with current campus climate issues.