Guide to Establishing a New Web Site

The purpose of this guide is to inform the Northwestern community about the decisions that need to be made regarding creating a new web site and how these decisions may affect each other and future situations. Reading and understanding this guide will very likely save time by ensuring a smooth request process and will help avoid potentially costly misunderstandings.

Domain Name

The domain name, for example, www.norris.northwestern.edu, will be the gateway through which most people will access your site. Schools, departments or centers may consider these different naming strategies:

  • Your business unit's name (tgs.northwestern.edu)
  • Your business unit's purpose (engage.northwestern.edu, music.northwestern.edu)

Only one domain name will be allocated for each site. There is no cost associated with establishing a subdomain of northwestern.edu, as in the two above examples.

Search engine optimization practices encourage careful consideration in naming. Including a limited number of the most important words related to your site in hyphen-separated fashion in a domain name can improve search ranking considerably.

It may be possible for your unit to register and use a .org top level domain name instead of a subdomain of northwestern.edu. There may be a search engine ranking disadvantage associated with doing this, however. By policy, .com, .biz, and other commercial types are not permitted. For questions on non-northwestern.edu addresses please contact webmaster@northwestern.edu.

This service is supported by IT Telecommunications and Network Services. To request a name addition, please contact the NUIT Support Center.

Web Server

Your site will need to be hosted on a web server that will contain your files and serve them to web visitors on request.

The University's central web server NuInfo is available free of charge to University departments, schools, and centers that opt to use the university's recommended Web Content Management System. The web editing system, the WCMS, is supported by the Department of University Relations. The web hosting systems, Nuinfo, are supported by IT Management Systems.

Many third-party web hosting resellers are available in the commercial space. If you are unsure what decision to make the below table lists some distinct technical benefits and limitations of each option.

NuInfo (University-owned) Third Party Provider
Cost of Web Hosting None Monthly or Annual Fee (Varies)
Cost of Editing Software Web Content Management System (None) Desktop Software (License costs per computer
Web Visitor NetID Authentication Yes No
Content Editor NetID Authentication Yes No
PHP, ASP, .NET, Perl No* Yes (check with providers)
Mobile Optimized Website Yes (in most cases) Check with provider

*Please note: the NuInfo platform does not provide support for server-side scripting languages. The Web Content Management System provides support for many dynamic content options, and is the only way to obtain centrally supported web hosting at Northwestern.

A third option for units who wish to use their own tools to update their site is to request the provisioning of a bare server through NUIT Cyberinfrastructure. The request to house administrative and request to house research servers forms are available. Staff resources are needed within your unit to manage the server's operating system, software, configuration, user accounts and security practices.

Design and Development

You may utilize an outside contractor to design and develop your site. Alternatively, you may use the services of the Office of Web Communications by submitting a project intake form. If an outside contractor will be working to construct your site, please make them aware of this guide so that they can plan accordingly for your site to be built with the options available in mind.