Dakota State University students walking around campus

Preparation + opportunity = success

That's the DSU equation. We're a four-year university with nationally recognized programs, cutting-edge facilities, and the brightest thinkers. But we're also a tight-knit, inclusive community. Small class sizes mean hands-on training and individualized attention. All this with an affordable, public school price that's among the best values in the region.

Majors & Degrees


Introduction: Governance, Explained

Web Governance comprises authoritative administrative structures that set guidelines and standards for web communications management.

According to industry expert Lisa Welchman:

“Digital governance is a framework for establishing accountability, roles, and decision-making authority for an organization's digital presence - which means its websites, social channels, and any other Internet and Web-enabled products and services.” 

Dakota State University has a central Marketing & Communications office, but we also rely on a decentralized approach for communicating with the many audiences of our colleges, programs, departments, labs, and other academic and administrative units. Together, we make our site a vital communications tool that serves our audiences in a clear and compelling way

DSU subscribes to a “lean, clean, and consistent” model of governance. For a page to exist, it must have:

  • An audience or audiences.
  • An articulated strategy and purpose.
  • Content ownership.
  • Documented review cycles.
  • An individual owner who has completed all the necessary training to have a web editor account.

Oversight and Advisory Responsibilities

The goals of our web governance framework are to establish:

  • Consultation and collaboration among several groups.
  • Partnerships between key units.
  • Roles and responsibilities in our offices.

In our governance model:

  • Marketing & Communications has overall responsibility for DSU's public website and is the authoritative voice for our institution.
  • Marketing & Communications has sole publishing and page creation rights for the public site, with ITS providing backup publishing support.
  • Marketing & Communications will provide ongoing training and project-to-project multimedia support.
  • Marketing & Communications articulates and supports standards and procedures for the new site.
  • Within colleges and administrative departments, key people hold responsibility for the management and maintenance of web pages.

Marketing & Communications Responsibilities

Marketing & Communications holds sole publishing rights for pages on the external website. Marketing & Communications holds the following responsibilities:

  • Manage brand consistency for all aspects of content, design, and visual identity on our site.
  • Maintain editorial oversight for the site's tone, voice, themes, and messaging.
  • Manage the top-level marketing sections of our site.
  • Collaborate with college-, department-, and office-level communicators on content and design.
  • Collaborate with ITS own web tools and integration points with other systems.
  • Create and communicate procedures and guidelines.
  • Provide support for crucial areas such as Research, Human Resources, Admissions, and academic programs.
  • Provide ongoing training in the Hannon Hill Cascade content management system for authors and editors.
  • Assign permissions within Cascade for content contributors and editors.
  • Conduct cyclical page and content review cycles.
  • Arrange user access to analytics.
  • Interpret site statistics on regular cycles and plan continual site improvements using data to drive decisions.
  • Fiscal responsibility for the annual licensing costs of both Hannon Hill and Funnelback.

Specific marketing-critical pages that Marketing & Communications owns include:

  • The university homepage
  • Top-level pages: About Us, Academics, Research, Admissions, Student Life
  • Gateway pages: Faculty & Staff, Alumni & Friends, Media Relations, and Government & Corporate Partners, Office of the President
  • The Academic Program Finder
  • News and Calendar of Events

Marketing & Communications provides on a project-to-project basis the following array of support services:

  • Writing copy for web pages, features, and features that highlight our stories.
  • Copyediting and proofreading content through workflow in the CMS.
  • Building directory profile pages.
  • Developing and reviewing information architecture.
  • Building out unit or departmental IA in Cascade.
  • Providing custom photography (shooting, cropping, optimizing) for banners, features, faculty profile pages, and more.
  • Creating visual and graphic design elements for use on web pages (buttons, ribbons, icons).
  • Producing videos for high-priority initiatives (pay for service as Marketing does not have this service in-house).

Information Technology Services Responsibilities

The ITS team is responsible for the overall management of the technical environment that supports our web presence, including:

  • The technical administration of Cascade CMS, databases, and other systems and tools (system management, stability, and upgrades).
  • Providing publishing backup to the Marketing & Communications team, as necessary.
  • Management of DSU's cloud hosting account.
  • Web programming and site development.
  • Management of the website's licensed custom search engine, Funnelback.
  • Integration of third-party systems, tools, and business applications.

College-, Department-, and Office-Level Responsibilities

“Content” Owners

Content Owners have permission to change content on current web pages assigned to them. They will be responsible for reviewing those pages regularly to make sure the content is accurate and up to date. Marketing & Communications will publish edits and updates after reviewing those changes.

To create new pages for dsu.edu, Content Owners meet with Marketing & Communications to ensure that the new page has a target audience or audiences, a strategy and purpose, an assigned owner, and a determined cycle for reviewing and updating.

Standards and Procedures

All web communications created by our university staff should comply with all outlined editorial, visual, social media channel, video, accessibility, and PDF policies.

Internal Vs. External Information

DSU's public site, dsu.edu, focuses primarily on the recruitment of prospective undergraduate and graduate students, and secondarily on the recruitment of prospective faculty and staff. Other priority audiences include industry partners, DSU alumni, and friends.

DSU's current students, faculty, and staff will find internal only information on myDSU.edu.

Editorial Standards

Our Tone

  • We are inclusive, personable, genuine, and modern.

Our Style

  • We write in an active voice and use first and second person to keep our site conversational.
  • We are clear and direct — we neither condescend nor make our content inaccessible through the use of industry jargon or unnecessarily complex language.
  • We try to be as succinct as possible.

Visual Standards

Our visual style guide includes details and policies for the design aspects of the following:

  • Ties to the overall brand
  • Typography
  • Color
  • Photography
  • The design grids
  • Interactive elements
  • Tables
  • Forms

Social Media

Please refer to Social Media Guidelines.

Video Procedures

Videos should feel natural, not staged, and should reflect our voice and overall brand. Please refer to DSU's brand manual for more details. Accessibility Policies.

Our university complies with accessibility standards for WCAG 2.1 and Section 508.

Accessibility Checklists

WCAG 2.1 Compliance

Section 508 U.S. Federal Accessibility Compliance

The Use of PDFs

DSU does not allow the posting of PDFs to the public-facing site. However, a small subset of document types may make a web-hosted PDF necessary. These include:

  • Documents with layout elements that cannot be created using web templates (footnotes/sidenotes/endnotes)
  • Custom forms with complex interactive fields that need to be created without a budget
  • Scans of historical documents
  • Documents custom-designed for print publication
  • Documents in need of annotation and collaboration through a PDF reader
  • Mathematical documents
  • Legally restricted formats (such as U.S. tax forms)
  • Documents with multiple columns, figures, or illustrations

Guidelines for Creating Accessible PDFs

All PDFs posted to the website must be accessible. The characteristics of an accessible PDF include the following:

  • Documents should use PDF tags. Similar to HTML, these tags provide context to the document for screen readers.
  • Text should be readable and searchable.
  • No security restrictions should exist on publicly posted PDFs.
  • Interactive form fields should have a predefined tab order and no time limit.
  • Headings should indicate the document's reading order.
  • Specified language for the text should be included in the document.
  • Alt text should be used for non-text artifacts such as images.
  • Color should not be used to provide meaning or context.

Tools for Creating Accessible PDFs

Several tools commonly in use by schools, colleges, and universities include built-in accessibility support, where a user may export to an accessible PDF document in the native program. These tools include:
Adobe Acrobat
Adobe FrameMaker

Adobe InDesign

Adobe LiveCycle Designer


Lotus Symphony Documents

Microsoft Word

OpenOffice.org Writer

WordPerfect Office

Microsoft Office 10

Faculty/Staff Directory Information

To protect the privacy of faculty and staff, DSU's directory lists general numbers and an email link. The site also lists the main campus address. Only internal audiences within myDSU.edu have access to physical locations and room/office numbers for faculty and staff.
Rather than using PDFs to post resumes and curriculum vitae on dsu.edu, we recommend hyperlinking to individuals' Wikipedia entries and LinkedIn pages, as well as other social media accounts.

Directory entries should not contain personal information.

Sites Outside our Template and Cascade Environment

We expect all externally facing web properties will reside within our Cascade environment and that Marketing & Communications will have an oversight role in ensuring those properties conform to the institution's visual and editorial standards, as well as to best practices in web communications.

New Web Properties

We expect new web properties to use the institution's toolkit of visual design templates, CMS tools, and approved systems. In a few specific situations, creating an institution-web property outside of Cascade and the existing visual interface design may be acceptable. Those situations include situations in which:

  • The strategic objectives of the new site require functionality that doesn't currently exist in Cascade and cannot be built in a timely or cost-effective way.
  • The site's creation is time-sensitive and time-bound.
  • The site meets a critical need that justifies short-term creation outside of the institution's environment, with a long-term plan for migration into the site's templates and CMS.
  • The site requires a new visual design for a specific purpose (for example, co-branding for a jointly sponsored event).

In these instances, faculty and staff should conform to the following guidelines:

  • Marketing & Communications must provide prior approval for the site's development.
  • The site must meet all accessibility guidelines outlined in our governance policies.
  • The site must adhere to the institution's visual identity standards and editorial standards.
  • The site must have a link back to the parent site in either the header or footer of all pages.
  • The site should utilize the proper analytics codes for our Google Analytics account and any related tracking mechanisms.
  • The site should have a specified date for archival or migration into Cascade.
  • The site must include a designated ITS and Marketing administrator.

Third-Party Vendors

When creating a site outside of the Cascade CMS and visual interface, please work with Marketing & Communications to identify a preferred partner for your work.

Non-Conforming Sites

Sites not conforming to these guidelines may not use our logo or in any way imply that we have approved or sanctioned those sites.

New Faculty Homepages

Faculty Homepages are acceptable exceptions to websites created outside of the Cascade CMS environment. New Faculty Homepages will use; the latest version of WordPress, the institution's design templates, and WordPress tools.
In these instances, faculty and staff should conform to the following guidelines:

  • The site will be generated from DSU branded WordPress themes based on responsive and ADA compliant designs.
  • The site must adhere to the institution's visual identity standards and editorial standards.
  • The site must have a link back to the parent site in either the header or footer of all pages.
  • The site will be owned and managed by faculty and its designees.
  • The site can leverage WordPress plugins to extend the user experience.
  • The site must include a designated ITS and Marketing administrator to provide security, hosting, and technical support.
  • Site owners will be responsible for creating the content and maintaining the site regularly.
  • The site should utilize the proper analytics codes for our Google Analytics account and any related tracking mechanisms.



Cascade/Cascade Environment – The name of the content management system and ecosystem dsu.edu is using to serve up webpages and content on the internet.

Content Management System (CMS) - A CMS, short for content management system, is a software application that allows users to build and manage a website without having to code it from scratch or know how to code at all.

Accessibility - Web accessibility means that websites, tools, and technologies are designed and developed so that people with disabilities can use them.