These recommendations cover general site-wide characteristics. Accessibility and content recommendations follow.


Group broad categories of information on a site according to users' needs.

Breadth Leads to Depth

Page levels should be organized to provide increasing degrees of detail for those who require more information.


Northwestern University supports Internet Explorer version 9+ and the latest versions of Firefox, Safari and Chrome. We do support the user-specified Internet Explorer compatibility or quirks modes.


Northwestern University recommends using XHTML 1.0 transitional as the doctype for web pages.

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Transitional//EN" 


Arial is the preferred font for text. Recommended settings (in order of preference): Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; Verdana, Geneva, sans-serif; and Tahoma, Geneva, sans-serif. Font sizes should be defined in your CSS using relative sizes (em's).

Page Dimensions

Pages can be flexible or fixed-width. Designs should accommodate for 1024 x 768 displays meaning that your content should fit within approximately 960 pixels wide. If a fixed-width page is meant to be printed, provide a "printable version" with a separate style sheet (for print media).

Site Structure

Awareness of conventions in web design will help you to plan your site's structure, navigational elements, and page design so that your site visitors can quickly and accurately find what they're looking for.

Make the site's structure obvious on the home page with a visual hierarchy to "clearly and accurately portray the relationships between the things on the page: which things are related, and which things are part of other things" (Krug).


We provide training for departmental sites that reside in the Web Content Management System.  To request Cascade training, fill Cascade Training Request Form or email

Become familiar with Dreamweaver, Adobe's web page editing program. Northwestern University Human Resources Training and Development offers Dreamweaver classes. Call 847-467-5081 or e-mail Dreamweaver instruction books are widely available as well.

User Focus vs. Internal Focus

Try to organize sections and content according to users' needs, not necessarily by departmental organization or hierarchy. Try to identify what items a user would logically want, even if it means grouping functions from different areas together.

Code Validators

Use a validator to ensure the site's compliance (validate both XHTML and CSS) with W3C coding recommendations.

W3C Markup Validator

Web Accessibility Evaluators

Check your website to test compliance with section 508 and WCAG 2.0 accessibility standards.

Read more about web accessibility here.