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Establishing a New Web Site

Use this guide to make key decisions for your new website, including selecting a domain name and server.

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:

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.

Labs and student groups should request a sub-subdomain from their sponsoring entity (to create sub.mccormick.northwestern.edu, for example).

Search engine optimization practices encourage careful consideration in naming:

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, allowing five business days for domain name requests and redirects.


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 Cascade, the university's main Web Content Management System (WCMS). The WCMS and NUInfo are supported by Global Marketing and Communications.

Many third-party web hosting resellers are available in the commercial space. Additional hosting options are NUSites, Northwestern's WordPress publishing environment that provides managed security and updates, as well as third-party web hosting resellers. The table below lists some distinct technical benefits and limitations of each option.

Server Options

NuInfo (University data center) NUSites (Hosted) Third Party Provider
Cost of Web Hosting None None Monthly or Annual Fee (Varies)
Cost of Editing Software None (WCMS) None Desktop Software (License costs per computer
Web Visitor NetID Authentication Yes Yes Requires Shibboleth
Content Editor NetID Authentication Yes Yes Requires Shibboleth
PHP, ASP, .NET, Perl No, but interactive functionality possible via Javascript No, but offers some WordPress modules Possibly (check with providers)

A fourth option for units who wish to use their own tools to update their site is to request a virtual 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 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. Also, review the Northwestern department templates (NetID required) and brand guidelines.