Northwestern Website Domain Name Guidelines
These guidelines are intended to assist Northwestern schools and departments in establishing consistent URLs for their websites.
What is a Subdomain?
A subdomain is a child of the main northwestern.edu domain, used to differentiate major areas of the university, such as schools and outward-facing departments (for example admissions.northwestern.edu). Most administrative sites fall into directories under northwestern.edu instead (for example northwestern.edu/president). This hierarchy allows site visitors to differentiate between types of Northwestern departments and allows for IT groups to establish and organize websites across different servers and platforms. Consistent URLs improve site trust. They also assist SEO efforts and improve our ability to track users between properties using analytics.
Top-level domain: The main domain for the university (northwestern.edu) or for a center (example: icair.org)
Top-level directory: A site that lives within a top-level domain (example: northwestern.edu/provost/)
Subdomain: A child under the top-level domain; also known as a third-level domain (example: weinberg.northwestern.edu)
Fourth-level domain: A child under a subdomain (example: homer.library.northwestern.edu)
Subdomain Policy by Site Type
Please note, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine faculty, students and units must comply with the medical school’s Website Development Policy.
Top-Level Subdomain Allowed?
University-wide resource, application, research center or initiative
Yes, if approved by OGMC
No, should be a directory (also needs approval from OGMC)
No, may use a fourth-level domain under lab.northwestern.edu or fall under a school subdomain
Faculty site (CV, class materials)
No, may use sites.northwestern.edu/name or fall under a school subdomain
School program or department
Follow school policies. Programs are strongly encouraged to fall under a school subdomain
Student group (non-school specific)
No, may use name.studentorgs.northwestern.edu
School-sponsored student group
No, should use a directory or fall under a school subdomain
Multiple-institution organization or conference
No, may use a .org
General Subdomain Policies
- The subdomain should reflect the name of your unit or describe an overall resource or initiative for which your group is the main point of contact (for example “sustainability”)
- Avoid using generic or confusing words--the site’s purpose should be clear from its address
- Ideally, subdomains should be short and memorable; superfluous words like “office” or “department” are unnecessary
- Avoid using acronyms or abbreviations that users are unlikely to know
- If there are multiple departments with names similar to yours, be specific, for example “research-facilities” vs “facilities”
- Sites should only have one active subdomain; older variants may be redirected to primary target
- Subdomains should not be established for temporary sites or for names expected to change
- Don’t use copyrighted or trademarked terms owned by outside entities
- Subdomains should not be used as shortcuts redirecting to other URLs
- Special characters other than hyphens are not allowed
- Domain names are case insensitive, but should be formatted in all lowercase
- Top-level domains should not begin with www. For example, use buffett.northwestern.edu rather than www.buffett.northwestern.edu and redirect the www version to the non-www version
- Loosely affiliated sites (conferences, multi-institution groups) may register a .org domain name
- By policy, .com, .biz, and other commercial types are not permitted. For questions on non-northwestern.edu addresses please contact email@example.com.
Subdomain Request Process
If your site meets the requirements outlined above, use one of these methods to request a subdomain:
- NUSites platform subdomain request form
- Websites that fall under a school (e.g. medill.northwestern.edu), contact your school IT department*
- For non-NUSites websites not under a school, email firstname.lastname@example.org (Designated IT personnel may use the service management portal)
* Feinberg faculty, students and units must comply with the medical school’s Website Development Policy.