University web address policy
Information about the different types of web addresses used at the University and the options available for your website.
www.sheffield.ac.uk is the main University website
The main University website is managed centrally by the Web Team in IT Services and the Digital team in Corporate Communications.
All web addresses that form part of the corporate site have the web address beginning www.sheffield.ac.uk.
For example, IT Services has the web address www.sheffield.ac.uk/it-services for its department site.
IT Services and Corporate Affairs have overall responsibility for the site. However, the maintenance of many of the sub-sites which make up the website have ownership devolved to other teams or staff within departments.
While internally we may perceive the website to be split up into many sub-sites for each department, faculty, project or event, an external visitor simply sees the entire University site as a single cohesive entity.
It is important when we create new sub-sites we have a consistent approach to the architecture of the site as a whole, including the web address.
Criteria for top-level web addresses
When you should use a top-level web address:
- Academic and professional services departments
- Central marketing content for key audiences
- Large conferences and events
- Large research projects
- Faculty gateway websites
Each department has a website which is managed using the University Content Management System (CMS). It is the responsibility of each department to have one or more member of staff to maintain the site and update content within it. We offer training on the use of the CMS on a regular basis.
Academic departments all have a top-level web address in the form of:
Where a department has a long name, or is better known by an abbreviation, then a short name can be used. For example, the Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering is know as EEE so the web address is www.sheffield.ac.uk/eee.
When a new department is set up, the Digital team in Corporate Communications can provide advice on what the most appropriate web address would be, taking into account a number of factors including
- consistency with the rest of the site
- search engine visibility and optimisation
- appropriateness for use in offline media e.g. printed materials
The University website includes several centrally-managed for key audiences. Examples are the pages for prospective undergraduates and prospective postgraduates. The central site includes also content which is organisation-wide, such as the news and the information on job vacancies.
As these sections form part of the core website and span across the entire institution they have top-level web addresses. For example:
|Section of the site||Web address|
Conferences and events usually require a short-lived website that is only needed in the run-up to the event and shortly afterwards.
For large-scale/high-profile events it can sometimes be appropriate to create a top-level site. When looking at setting up a conference site you should contact the Digital team team to discuss the best options.
A large, cross-department research project for different audiences can have a website within the CMS at the top level.
Research projects may, if deemed appropriate, have a website outside of the CMS, making use of the cPanel web hosting service. This does give more flexibility in terms of additional functionality and design.
You should also consider that, unlike the CMS, there is no central training or technical support available for cPanel sites. cPanel site owners are responsible for the setting up, securing and ongoing maintenance of their sites. If you're considering a cPanel site, you are welcome to contact us for advice.
A faculty gateway can have a top-level redirect to the gateway site.
When a top-level web address is not appropriate
Courses should not have top-level web addresses as this leads to orphaned sections of the site with no ties to any department. As a good department is a strong selling point for any course it is important to emphasise the departments running the course, rather than not associating it with any department.
Every undergraduate or postgraduate course should have a page within the appropriate central prospectus website. These pages are maintained by the Digital team.
Courses cannot have web addresses at the top level of the structure e.g.
Each faculty has a website which contains material centred on each individual faculty.
As the relationships between faculty and departments change occasionally and we do not currently put a large emphasis on the faculty structure, department websites are not located inside the faculty site.
For example, the School of Law website will remain at the top level (www.sheffield.ac.uk/law) and not sit below the Faculty of Social Sciences (www.sheffield.ac.uk/social-sciences/law/).
For small conferences organised by an individual group or department, a page or website that sits within the department site is usually the best location.
Smaller research projects for a specific audience that are not institution-wide can also have a CMS website. These should preferably reside within a department website instead of having a top-level web address.
Top-level redirections will generally only be set up if they meet the criteria for a top-level web address and the destination website is within the CMS.
Redirections can never be guaranteed for an indefinite period of time and ordinarily are issued when a site has been reorganised, for a maximum of 12 months, to allow existing printed materials to drop out of circulation, and for search engines to find the new site and update links.
Alternatives to a top-level redirect
If your requested top-level redirect does not meet the criteria outlined in this document then we suggest that you:
- Set up a redirect in your CMS site from a higher level in the site structure.
- Promote a level higher up in the structure and ensure that the key content deeper down is clearly signposted from this page.
We do not create speculative redirections based on possible terms people may guess e.g.
www.sheffield.ac.uk/ug does not redirect to www.sheffield.ac.uk/undergraduate
Our access logs show no guessing of URLs in normal user behaviour.
General web address selection considerations
Irrespective of where the section appears within the web address structure the following things should always be considered:
Is the address optimised for search engines?
Does it contain enough information for a search engine to find it. Will the choice of web address help search engine visibility.
How does the web address sound when read out loud?
Can the web address be understood when read out? Often letters can be misheard, for example, 'a' and '8' which should be taken into consideration.
Does the web address use hyphens to help separate words?
These can help search engines identify keywords and also make it more readable to a human.
Does the web address make sense to its intended audience?
Will it be obvious to visitors to the site what they are about to visit.
Could the web address be misinterpreted by anyone?
If several words are concatenated to form the web address can they be misread or misunderstood.
Will the web address misrepresent the section?
Does the web address structure imply anything incorrectly – for example a news section at www.sheffield.ac.uk/news implies University-wide news
www.sheffield.ac.uk/it-services/news implies news about IT Services.
Does the web address clash with an existing or expected future site?
Is the address very similar to an existing web address that could be confusing e.g.
www.sheffield.ac.uk/it-services ("ahy tee" services) and www.sheffield.ac.uk/lt-services ("el tee" services) could easily be confused by a user, or mistyped.
If a web address is likely to be used for central marketing information in the future it may well be reserved for that purpose.
Some web addresses are also reserved for technical reasons.
Existing websites which do not meet these guidelines
In the past, sub-sites may have been created which do not conform to this policy. At present, there are no plans to enforce this policy retrospectively. Any new site created in the future will need to follow this policy, and the previous precedent will not be taken into account.
The policy exists to ensure we have the best website we can so we would encourage site coordinators to consider changing their sites to conform with our help. We are happy to assist to make any changes as smooth and seamless as possible. Please contact us for options.
Get in touch
If you have CMS questions or are stuck then get in touch and we'll do our best to help.