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These recommendations cover general site-wide characteristics. For visual and content recommendations, please visit the Brand Tools site. For accessibility information, please visit the Accessibility site.


Group broad categories of information on a site according to users' needs. The Global Marketing and Communications Digital team can assist with an evaluation of your site architecture.

Breadth Leads to Depth

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

Browser Support

Northwestern University supports Internet Explorer 11, Microsoft Edge and the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox and Safari. We do not support user-specified Internet Explorer compatibility or quirks modes.

HTML5 Doctype

As of 2014, Northwestern University recommends using the HTML5 doctype for web pages.

<!doctype html>


Akkurat Pro Regular is the preferred font for standard text. Recommended settings for fallback fonts are: Akkurat Pro Regular, Arial, sans-serif.  For information on how to implement Akkurat Pro Regular or any of our other branded fonts on your site, please visit our Department Templates site.

Page Dimensions

Pages should be responsive and flexible in nature to support all devices from desktop to mobile. Recommended desktop resolution is 1440px wide with major breakpoints at 768px (tablet) and 480px (mobile). The viewable content region on desktop should be 1120px wide.

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 email 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 HTML5 and CSS) with W3C coding recommendations.