Web Site Development Options


Self Service Site Options – Sites@Duke

Duke WordPress offers a robust set of easy-to-use tools, including Duke-related themes and a Duke URL. The service also provides user and group management through the Duke NetID authentication system.

Duke’s WordPress service provides an easy way for Duke faculty, staff and students to set up a website or blog using predefined design templates (themes) and plugins that users can choose to enable within their sites as they see fit. There is no charge to users.

Semi-custom Using Existing Themes

There are several administrative themes or templates available as a base for Duke sites. The semi-custom options are offered through the Central Web Services group and through some preferred vendors. Use of an existing theme will ensure compliance with Duke brand and is usually a more cost effective solution for groups with limited budgets. Some themes do require approval so check with the Marketing and Strategic Communications office for more information.


Custom websites can be developed using internal and external resources. With custom site development a bidding process is required. (See vendors) After obtaining 3 bids (one of which MUST be from an internal service provider if the service is offered within Duke) you will also need to coordinate hosting and domains. (see below). Any custom work still has an expectation to meet the overall Duke brand and online experience. We encourage you to invite the Marketing office into your project as a liasion with your project, the service provider and broader Duke.

Hosting Options

It is strongly encouraged to maintain use of internal infrastructure wherever possible. However, sometimes specific business needs require the use of a third party provider. This requires approval.


OIT maintains a centralized web hosting environment that provides virtual servers (VMs) to both OIT supported services as well as applications and services supported by the departments and schools across Duke University. To meet the needs of a majority of OIT’s VM requests and to provide a consistent offering, a set of standard offerings and processes has been created and details can be found at the following links:

**Note: Most Drupal implementations require a medium or large bronze level machine. Most WordPress implementations require a small or medium bronze level machine.

OIT offers several levels of additional System Administration offerings to meet the varied usage requirements of VM’s at Duke. You must choose one of these options when requesting web hosting space. Go to the OIT website for more detail.

*Note: most sites require 8/5 Webhosting OIT-SI System Administration .


Centralized frameworks are based on the following technologies and platforms:

  • External Web Sites: DRUPAL Content Management Platform (Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP based). Some of our old sites are in Xoops CMS until we migrate away to DRUPAL
  • Intranet Sites: Mocrosoft Sharepoint 2010 (Windows Server, IIS, MS SQL Server and .NET based)

Contact the DHTS web services group for more information.

Universal Footer

The Duke Community is encouraged to take advantage of the Universal footer unless sites have a need for custom footer content that cannot be met elsewhere on the page. Given its clean design, universal content links and relative sizing, the Universal footer should meet 90% of needs for Duke specific sites.

Alert Bar

Syndication technology allows for a web bar to appear automatically on websites across the university to highlight emergency news and other alerts. The alert bar accommodates two levels of information. Level 1 alerts, represented by a red bar, will be used for emergencies and will link to the DukeALERT website for additional information. Level 2 alerts, represented by an orange bar, will be used for important messages such as pending severe weather or a gas leak in a building.

Web Fonts

Web fonts are a great way to enhance your site. They provide a more creative license in our communication materials and allow more flexibility and scalability across devices. Because they are vector based (using a mathematical equation instead of stair stepping pixels) they render with crisp edges, clean lines and deep color.

We typically recommend no more than 2-3 fonts per use on sites. This Google link is nice for demonstrating pairings and waterfall typesetting. The following fonts are free web fonts downloadable though Google fonts and are comparable to both Interstate and Garamond:

  • Roboto
  • Roboto Slab
  • Open San
  • Average (Sans and Serif)
  • EB Garamond

Exception: The university homepage uses Proxima Nova but is only licensed for homepage use. However, we’ve identified free substitute fonts for broader use.

As always, Interstate and Garamond are available for university-wide use and can be downloaded. See University Logos and Fonts in the Identity Section.


A website has no value if no one can find it. Therefore, a critical component of any online strategy is search engine optimization (SEO). SEO is by no means an exact science. There is no single action or technique a website owner can employ to ensure his or her site will rank well. By following a basic set of principles for good web content design, the chances of achieving favorable rankings greatly increases.

DHTS maintains a page on general guidelines for proper SEO.

Domain Names

Domain names require approval from the Office of Public Affairs. Please visit the third level domain request form to request approval. As a general rule, try to stay away from long, cumbersome spellings or ambiguous acronyms. Use fourth level domains if possible to show associations between units and schools.

Domains obtained by third party organization are the responsibility of the purchaser and should not utilize the duke brand without permission. Read more about the Duke Domain Request Policy.


Duke’s preferred platform for measuring web site traffic is Google Analytics. If you are unfamiliar with Google analytics or need help getting started, check out Google’s tutorials.


Duke sites and applications should make every attempt to meet a baseline level of accessibility. A growing number of sites across Duke are aiming for or are meeting the WCAG 2.0 standard. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are driven by the larger international standards organization for the internet, the W3C. These standards, published in 2008, are based on 4 key principles: Perceivable, Operable, Understandable and and Robust. Within these standards are 3 levels on conformance. A, AA, AAA. While updating sites to these standards will take time, we encourage groups to implement accessibility into ALL aspects of web development.

WCAG 2.0 (Level AA) Checker

Manual Accessibility Checklist

Service Level Agreements

Any work being done through a contract organization – internal or external – requires a minimum service-level agreement of 10 hours per year. Due to the changing nature of the web and the need for version and security upgrades on our preferred platforms, site owners need to identify some portion of their budget and calendar for updates and patching. Without this, sites are subject to vulnerability and attacks. Should a security breach occur, the security office may remove the affected site until it can be confirmed as no longer a risk. IT organizations such as OIT and DHTS cannot be held responsible for sites and actions that they did not create nor participate in.


Duke websites present a very viable risk to the university and can provide an avenue of attack against other Duke systems. There is a direct relationship between website compromises and unpatched web environments and associated servers. In an effort to improve the security of all Duke’s websites, the IT Security Office (ITSO), Office of Information Technology (OIT) and Office of Marketing and Strategic Communications (OMSC) have developed guidance and options for those managing websites at Duke.

Development Best Practices

A little goes a long way. Though there are a lot of industry standards with regards to mark up, responsive design, SEO, etc, here are general considerations to keep in mind when taking on a new project: (From Bean Creative)

  1. Go responsive — anyone not doing this these days will just be ignored by pretty much every human under age 30
  2. Offer mobile-first design, with progressive enhancement for larger screens
  3. Optimize accessibility to create a user experience that is fully accessible to all viewers — everything from supporting people with disabilities to serving up clear images for devices that support 3x+
  4. Emphasize UX with good typography, leveraging the increasing number of web-specific typefaces and typekits, like Google Web Fonts, Adobe Typekit, etc.
  5. Focus on long-form content as opposed to click-thru content
  6. Provide CLEAR, real time feedback during form interactions. Don’t force users to guess the formatting needed, and consider small additions like auto tabbing between fields and formatting as you type to be super user-centric