Administrative Policies

AD54 Web Page Design and Image

Policy Status: 

Under Review

Policy Steward: 

Vice President for Administration



The purpose of this policy is to describe certain visual and information elements and their usage that are required for all official Penn State World Wide Web pages.


Official Penn State Web pages covered:

All publicly accessible Web pages presenting official University information must adhere to the requirements below. This includes all pages containing information sanctioned by the University and directly related to University business or academic activities.

What is not covered by this policy:

While the University encourages the application of the policies, defined in this document, for ease of use and consistency across all parts of the Penn State Web, adoption of this policy is not required for:

  • Student, faculty and staff personal pages, course management pages (e.g, ANGEL) intranets (defined as sites requiring a restricted-access login), and student organizations.
  • Any sites that exist to communicate the work of a consortium or other multi-party organization of which Penn State is a part, but which is not an official Penn State organization.



The Penn State Mark is a registered trademark and may not be modified. The 'Mark' is constituted by the words "Penn State" in a single specified typeface; the 'shield', and, finally, the horizontal rule separating the text from the shield. Compliant versions are available for use in the Web Style Guide . Additional guidelines pertaining to usage of the Penn State Mark are also provided in the Penn State Web Style Guide .

Mark placement is to be in the top left corner of content area in all cases, with the 'P' in 'Penn State' no less than 10 pixels or more than 15 pixels from the left margin of the active content area, and no less than 10 pixels or more than 15 pixels down from the top edge of the content area to the top of the 'S' in Penn State. The size of the Mark is fixed at a shield width of 27 pixels (measured at the top corners of the shield area). The Mark must be used unmodified in correct proportion. See examples in the Web Style Guide.

No content is permitted to the left or above the mark in its immediate vicinity, except background images such as photos that conform to graphic identity rules.

Links -

  • PSU Mark always links to
  • PSU Campus Signature Marks are only used on secondary or lower pages of a campus Web site. The signature mark links to the campus home page.


  • Local site ('search this site' as the default; coded by site's Webmaster),
  • Penn State Web (provided in template),
  • Penn State People (provided in template.
  • Penn State Department (provided in template).

The search element can be placed anywhere within the top 25 percent of the content area, either in vertical or horizontal orientation. Sample code in the templates in the Web Style Guide.


  • Site must have a faculty/staff directory with a clear and usable contact format. The unit administrator must be identified and contact information included. The format is at the discretion of the unit, but usability testing is strongly encouraged for this as for any part of the site.
  • Site must have manager/editor contact method for problem-solving and user feedback.
  • Site must link to Penn State policies for Equal Opportunity and nondiscrimination, privacy, site contact, copyright information. Footer suggested. Site-wide consistency should be maintained. (Samples:


Implementation deadline for the above common elements: Aug. 15, 2005. Units which cannot make style modifications by this date should contact the Office of University Relations for an extension or assistance. Use the suggestion form for this and for implementation questions, or call 5-7517 and ask for the Web Managing Editor. NOTE: the templates provided at the Web Style Guide site may be downloaded, modified, and used for convenience in complying with the policy. They include all required elements, and are validated for W3C markup. (The pages must be revalidated after adding local content, however.)


  • Future Issues: All issues pertaining to Penn State Web pages in the future that are not addressed in this policy will be addressed in the Penn State Web Style Guide.
  • Web Markup Standards: Site administrators shall integrate W3C and Section 508 standards into site planning and design. (See and for references.)
  • Pages that validate properly to older standards do not need to be changed until that page is redesigned as part of a general or sectional redesign. New content shall comply with W3C and Section 508 standards and accessibility requirements.
  • Accessibility: The University's policy is to be compliant with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998.
    • New Web pages and sites should comply, to the extent possible allowed by current technology, with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998, the Web-based intranet and Internet information and applications (1194.22) Current pages and sites should be evaluated and developers should implement a timely program to address major flaws, using current best practices and professional judgment. Developers should use a reliable, current accessibility validator or text encoder (e.g. LIFT), and should remain current as this technology improves. Validator results may be inconclusive or inaccurate, and must be interpreted by Web site administrators.
    • Training and help for developers: Penn State has identified considerations and helpful hints for faculty, staff, and students that will assist in making all formal units' Web sites and Web pages accessible in an academic setting. Penn State Web Accessibility tutorials, references, and extensive help on creating accessible Web sites can be found at: Further resources will be posted and maintained at .


  • Site-wide consistency should be maintained with regard to design, navigation, location of the Penn State Mark, search elements, footer information, and contact information. Consistent usage throughout sites is highly desirable and designs should be both validated according to Web standards and tested with the appropriate audience.
  • Recommend using current best practices for XML/XHTML/HTML AND CSS, and current best XML, XHTML validators, such as those at,, and related organizations. It is presumed that developers and site managers will use their best judgment in interpreting validator reports and follow developments in the field closely.
  • When redesigning in the future, references to "standards" in this policy will mean those in effect at that time. Developers are expected to remain current as standards evolve.
  • Existing sites: Priority for any desirable retrofitting for Web standards compliance should be interpreted to mean the main and second levels. Remainder of older pages and sections would be grandfathered in and need not be reworked unless a unit chooses to, but compliance for the affected part of the site will be required when the site, or any part of the site, is redesigned.
  • Include Campus/Colleges link - for full listing of campus and academic college sites). Consistent usage throughout the site is highly desirable and should be tested with users.
  • Include site index - If needed, use the Site Index Generator tool: .
  • Include Contact form - If needed, use the Ask PSU contact form generator tool: .
  • Usability - Units should establish a program of usability testing and design based on best practices of usability, including factual ROI (return on investment) analysis whenever possible


Web sites at Penn State are expected to adhere to the highest levels of quality, properly reflecting Penn State's image and stature, and to abide by these minimal guidelines.

While units of the University are free to develop or modify their own sites, the Vice President for University Relations or his/her designees will be responsible for ensuring adherence to the guidelines in this policy and for maintenance and upkeep of the University's Web Style Guide and Web Resource Center.


A Web Review Committee shall periodically review the official Web site and the next level of pages below the home page, and recommend new design elements to the Office of University Relations, which has responsibility for the University's home sections. The committee will be chaired by the Vice President for University Relations and should include, at a minimum, the Vice Provost for Information Technology or designee, the Coordinator of Information Technology, the Director of University Publications, a representative from the University Faculty Senate, Finance and Business, Web Accessibility Committee, and either Undergraduate Education or Student Affairs. The committee will consult with the Web Accessibility and Standards Review Committee, to which each budget executive should appoint a representative.


Other Policies in this manual should also be referenced, especially the following:

AD07 - Use of University Name, Symbols and/or Graphic Devices,

AD61 - University Communications Through Advertising, Publications and Media Relations,

AD52 - Links to or from Penn State Web Pages,

FN14 - Use of Tangible Assets, Equipment, Supplies and Services

Most recent changes:

  • August 2, 2011 - Removed the second paragraph in FUTURE MONITORING which discussed "accessibility," as this information has been more appropriately addressed and published in Policy AD69, Accessibility of Penn State Web Pages.

Revision History (and effective dates):

  • June 15, 2011 - Editorial changes made in the GENERAL REQUIREMENTS, ALL AFFECTED PAGES, "Accessibility," 2nd bullet. Removed the link and associated verbiage pointing to "AccessPSU" (formerly ), and reworded paragraph accordingly.
  • June 22, 2006 - Editorial changes made. Moved one bullet (Pages that validate properly…) out of the RECOMMENDATIONS AND GENERAL GUIDELINES to the GENERAL REQUIREMENTS, ALL AFFECTED PAGES, and then added one new sentence to the same bullet. In the Web Markup Standards bullet, changed "should" to "shall."
  • August 15, 2005 - The policy was completely rewritten. Deadline for compliance with new required common elements of design: August 15, 2005
  • August 8, 2000 - Editorial change: Under section 'FUTURE MONITORING,' changed scope in first sentence from "all official web sites" to "official Web site and the next level of pages below the homepage."
  • August 6, 2000 - New policy.

Date Approved: 

August 1, 2011

Date Published: 

August 2, 2011

Effective Date: 

August 2, 2011