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Close Menu's Guide to Digital Governance: Design

This is the ninth installment of’s Guide to Digital Governance, a comprehensive guide intended to help get you started when developing a governance plan for your institution’s digital communications.

Website design is handled differently by just about every organization we have encountered, but whether you are writing governance for one site with one design or several sites with varying designs and various owners, you will want to document policies and procedures for how sites are designed and redesigned.

For the purposes of this article, we are going to assume we are writing guidelines for a governance plan that must consider multiple sites and site owners. Here follow some questions to consider for writing your guidelines.

General Guidelines for All Websites

  • Does your organization have an established visual identity or branding guidelines that will dictate the design of a website?
  • Who oversees the adherence to visual guidelines?
  • What is the process for having a website design evaluated for adherence to the visual identity or branding? Is there an approval process?
  • Are sub-sites within your main website permitted to have their own design, or must they use the same templates designed for the main site?
  • What is the process for having a sub-site design evaluated for adherence to the visual identity or branding? Is there an approval process?

Designing New Websites

  • Who is responsible for designing new websites? Who is approved or permitted to do this work?
  • What is the process for requesting a design for a new site?
  • Are there limited design options?
  • Are external freelance designers, consultants, and/or design firms permitted to be hired to create a new graphic design for a website?
  • Are external freelance designers, consultants, and/or design firms also permitted to produce the templates, themes, or HTML files which constitute the actual execution of the graphic design for the web?
  • If external freelance designers, consultants, and/or design firms are permitted to translate the graphic design into files for the web, what formats, languages, protocols, frameworks, and content management applications are permitted in your web environment?
  • Are there specific guidelines that external freelance designers, consultants, and/or design firms must be given before starting work?
  • Are there dimensional guidelines for the size of the site, such as a maximum or minimum width (or height), or guidelines for breakpoints in responsive designs?
  • Are there image-size limits for the purposes of fast page-loading?
  • Are there accessibility standards the designs must follow? Must they be tested for accessibility compliance?
  • Are there existing style sheets (CSS) that should be used or incorporated?
  • Are there specific colors or color palettes that must be used? Or not used?
  • Are there specific fonts or font families that must be used? Or not used?

Redesigning Existing Websites

In addition to the questions for new websites, you should also consider the following for redesigning sites.

  • When may a website owner request a redesign of their site?
  • Is there a special process for redesigning a site?
  • Are there any costs associated with a site redesign?
  • May a website owner, or their assignees, make design adjustments to their website between official redesigns, if they have the ability and access to do so?


This post is part of a larger series of posts, which make up a Guide to Digital Governance Planning. The sections follow a specific order intended to help you start at a high-level of thinking and then focus on greater and greater levels of detail. The sections of the guide are as follows:

  1. Starting at the 10,000ft View – Define the digital ecosystem your governance planning will encompass.
  2. Properties and Platforms – Define all the sites, applications and tools that live in your digital ecosystem.
  3. Ownership – Consider who ultimately owns and is responsible for each site, application and tool.
  4. Intended Use – Establish the fundamental purpose for the use of each site, application and tool.
  5. Roles and Permissions – Define who should be able to do what in each system.
  6. Content – Understand how ownership and permissions should apply to content.
  7. Organization – Establish how the content in your digital properties should be organized and structured.
  8. URL Naming Conventions – Define how URL patterns should be structured in your websites.
  9. Design – Determine who owns and is responsible for the many aspects design plays in digital communications and properties.
  10. Personal Websites – Consider the relationship your organization should have with personal websites of members of your organization.
  11. Private Websites, Intranets and Portals – Determine the policies that should govern site which are not available to the public.
  12. Web-Based Applications – Consider use and ownership of web-based tools and applications.
  13. E-Commerce – Determine the role of e-commerce in your website.
  14. Broadcast Email – Establish guidelines for the use of broadcast email to constituents and customers.
  15. Social Media – Set standards for the establishment and use of social media tools within the organization.
  16. Digital Communications Governance – Keep the guidelines you create updated and relevant.

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