The CALS Web Ecosystem
The Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) web ecosystem is a dynamic and multifaceted environment that has a broad range of contributors. Our website shows our audiences the collaborative and exciting place that CALS is.
The Marketing and Communications team has consolidated all the CALS subsites under the cals.cornell.edu domain to give more authority to the content created from the research and outreach produced at CALS and to elevate the CALS brand in search results.
The current CALS website ecosystem, under the purview of this governance plan, consists of approximately 60 websites that are managed through a Drupal 7 content management system (CMS) and a new CALS core website managed with a Drupal 9 CMS.
Drupal 7 websites share one of three themes and can be identified primarily by the header and footer treatments of those three themes. The Drupal 9 environment is a new, singular design that strongly represents the CALS brand in both its appearance and content.
For help and support, please contact us at calsweb [at] cornell.edu.
All sites and subsites that fall under the CALS domain meet the following goals:
- Facilitate a user experience by intuitively presenting information in a way that will help to develop lasting online relationships with all of our site visitors, especially students, prospective students and other academic talent.
- Provide collaborative, centralized governance for the online development, deployment, delivery and maintenance for CALS and CALS-related content.
- Consistently represent the CALS brand through standardized processes, roles, responsibilities and practices.
- Achieve a consistent look and feel for the official CALS web presence by quickly, easily and enjoyably providing users with the information they need.
- Meet and maintain web accessibility and security standards and requirements.
- Improve program rankings.
- Strengthen cross-campus collaboration.
- Increase the frequency and quality of placements in the media, highlighting groundbreaking faculty research.
- Enhance the CALS reputation as thought leaders by increasing requests from groups outside of agriculture to participate in future-oriented conversations.
- Create high-quality content with the engagement of CALS web system content editors.
All CALS web initiatives are guided by these principles:
- Our visitors come first. All our work—including content, design and allocation of resources—is created with the needs of our audiences in mind.
- We are consistent with our brand. The CALS brand is our reputation, and the website exists to highlight and elevate that reputation to our audiences.
- CALS is a pioneer of purpose-driven science and home to Cornell University’s second largest population of students, faculty and staff. We work across disciplines to tackle the challenges of our time through world-renowned research, education and outreach. The questions we probe and the answers we seek focus on three overlapping concerns: natural and human systems; food, energy and environmental resources; and social, physical and economic well-being.
- We are aligned with our college’s mission and Land-Grant roots. CALS is in contract with New York state to provide purpose-driven scientific findings and advancements to the residents of the state.
- Our websites are responsive. A responsive design helps future-proof the site across multiple devices, including but not limited to computers, tablets and smart phones.
- Our web structure is Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level AA compliant. The CALS user-centric web structure is based on visitor needs as opposed to the university’s department and office organization, incorporating user-friendly Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant content, information architecture and navigation.
The CALS community has a wide variety of audiences, from prospective undergraduates to farmers in the field. The CALS website is designed to help all of these audiences find the content they’re searching for quickly and easily, with a special focus on prospective academic talent.
- Parents and families
- Current students looking for new opportunities within CALS
- Prospective faculty, staff and external partners
CALS students are accomplished, inquisitive and passionate about the changes they want to make in the world. They desire connection with each other and their community. They are eager to share their experiences and believe their efforts will have an impact. Top prospective students who are attracted to CALS share those qualities, and they and their families seek informational experiences that place them in the context of the CALS community.
CALS and Cornell Community
- Current students
- Faculty and staff
- Broader Cornell community
Staff, faculty and current students are aware that they belong to an exciting institution. Updates on activities at the college and the accomplishments of those hard at work on our shared mission deepen that connection.
- Active and inactive alumni
- Other academic and research supporters
- Cornell community
A CALS education prepares our alumni to thrive in a competitive environment. Even after leaving campus to make an impact on the world, our graduates remain devoted to CALS. We strengthen that bond by providing engaging content about the college, which includes offering updates about scientific advances and showcasing visual content that reminds alumni of campus.
- Policymakers in Albany and Washington, D.C.
CALS relies on government funding to support our research as we pursue purpose-driven science. It is imperative that we demonstrate the impact those public funds generate.
Primary support for cals.cornell.edu and associated sites and assets is led by the CALS Office of Marketing and Communications, working closely with CALS Office of Information Technology. The website is the sole property of Cornell CALS. While certain faculty and staff have access to edit specific portions of the site, create new content and remove old content, the site and all subsites remain the property of CALS.
The associate dean for marketing and communications provides oversight and strategic direction; reviews requests from academic and administrative stakeholders and sets priorities; and apprises the dean, executive dean, senior associate deans and other associate deans of projects and plans.
The CALS Office of Marketing and Communications has access to all areas of the CALS website. To ensure quality control, the office reserves the right to alter content as needed for clarity, grammar, spelling, usage, accessibility compliance and style. The office may also make changes to ensure conformity to university naming conventions and branding as well as to adjust content that does not meet acceptable use guidelines or the standards outlined in this policy.
Additional responsibilities of the marketing and communications office include the following:
- Ensure site quality and content integrity.
- Ensure compliance with all legal and regulatory standards, such as accessibility, security and protection of personal information.
- Offer primary technical and strategic support for cals.cornell.edu and our associated sites and assets.
- Provide training and support for content editors in 1) use of the content management system, 2) overall content and 3) ADA compliance and accessibility.
- Maintain the software in a timely manner
Due to the size, engagement level and complexity of CALS, the Office of Marketing and Communications has implemented a “management team” model to support web governance. The management team model mirrors the organizational structure of the institution.
At CALS, content editors and project leads are based within each academic department or administrative unit. Web editors function in operational and administrative roles and typically report to department or unit heads. Contributors are selected from department or unit employees based on current needs, requirements, skills and abilities, with the CALS marketing and communications team acting in a liaison role. Editors work within their specific departments to complete web-related tasks but may consult with the marketing and communications team to perform their duties.
The CALS marketing and communications team is considered the website owner and the main administrator, working in close collaboration with CALS Office of Information Technology (OIT) and Cornell Information Technologies (CIT). Together these entities make high-level financial and strategic decisions for the website and take responsibility for the results of those decisions.
- Digital Communications Director – The management and oversight of cals.cornell.edu is the responsibility of the digital communications director. The director is the primary administrator of cals.cornell.edu, is in charge of new website deployments and is responsible for ensuring that current CALS content meets Cornell’s Web Accessibility Standards, Policy 5.12.
- Associate Director – The role of the associate director is in the management and oversight of editorial content creation and external campaigns and the development of thought leadership.
- Content Manager – The content manager’s strategic work includes developing the editorial calendar, curating content, identifying higher level stories for digital, print and social media, giving all channels equitable coverage across CALS and elevating our four areas of science — agricultural, life, social and environmental — to central university channels.
- Digital Media Strategist - The digital media strategist is the primary point of contact for CALS content editors, providing assistance with basic troubleshooting, new contributor training, site revisions and getting content posted on the CALS website or email newsletters. Using the college’s Google Analytics account and other analytics tools, this position supports the creation of regular, relevant reports that assess the ongoing effectiveness of all CALS’ digital communications channels and establishes benchmarks and interprets data in multiple views to provide actionable recommendations to the associate dean.
- Web Front-End Strategist – The web front-end strategist creates a user-friendly, functional and attractive digital environment, ensuring a great user experience by combining usability and front-end development with visual design. As part of a continuing review process, this position also ensures that all new work and websites meet Cornell’s established web accessibility standards and writes code that supports strong data capture, search engine optimization for improved search results, dynamic content optimization to support increased knowledge of user behavior and advanced testing strategies.
The CALS OIT development team works in collaboration with the CALS marketing and communications team in the ownership and administration of the Drupal CMS environments. OIT is primarily responsible for the hosting, security and code maintenance of the Drupal 7 environment and acts as a collaborator on development for the entire web ecosystem.
- Drupal Web Developer – The Drupal web developer is the primary owner and administrator of the website, including the development, staging and production environments. This position is responsible for the codebase, tech support, testing and ongoing site and server-related upkeep and maintenance. The Drupal web developer builds and updates features, establishing new/additional designs for features on the public-facing websites and translating designs/themes into new/additional features on the CALS website.
Due to the complex nature of the CALS web ecosystem, there is a strong need to divide access given to web editors based on the department “microsites” and give permission for them to have editorial access only to specific content. Departments and units are considered “teams” in the current model, and several specific team members may be given permission to edit portions of the website on a case-by-case basis.
- Department Chair – The chair is the primary stakeholder of department subsites.
- Department Contributor(s) – These team members are responsible for the creation and distribution of team content, and management of the department team.
- Profile Manager – The profile manager is responsible for modifying related people profiles, including faculty and staff, and could be a designated staff or faculty member.
- Administrators – Administrators have access to all aspects of the Drupal 7 and Drupal 8 CMS and are responsible for interacting with and facilitating top-level actions for users across the ecosystem.
- Super User – Super users have the second level of access to the CMS. They can create, edit, publish and move/delete pages along with other actions not available to publishers and content editors (referred to below).
- Publishers – Publishers can create, edit and publish content.
- Content Editor – The content editor can create and edit content, but must enlist someone in the publisher role to publish content to the public website. They produce and organize site content including content creation and updates, document creation and updates and image selection and upload content.
- Webform User – The webform user can create, edit or view submissions to specific web-based forms and can be given permission to access other webforms as needed.
Policies and Standards
These policies and standards connect the mission of cals.cornell.edu to the everyday actions of the web editor community, clarify the institution's expectations of the individual members, mitigate institutional risk, enhance efficiency and support the university's compliance with laws and regulations.
The marketing and communications team has full access to all areas of all CALS digital properties in the Drupal 7 and Drupal 8 ecosystems and has broad authority to oversee, edit and remove content that does not comply with the standards set in this governance document.
CALS Core Homepage Content
The CALS Office of Marketing and Communications is the primary owner and content manager for the cals.cornell.edu homepage. This team is the only group capable of elevating content to the homepage of CALS and curate that content for the college. Any department chair or editor who wishes to elevate content to the homepage needs to communicate directly with the marketing and communications team via email or through the request form.
Department chairs, project leads and web editors are responsible for and the primary owners of their department’s content. They can establish workflows within their units that assure the quality of the content and frequency of the updates.
The power of a brand for Cornell CALS lies in creating dynamic, meaningful relationships with our stakeholders, both internal and external, that evolve over time. The personality, tone and writing style of the CALS brand are defined in the Brand Guide. Website editors are expected to follow these guidelines as they create or edit content on CALS websites.
CALS web properties include and publicly present a variety of visual and multimedia content. Any text, photos, videos, music or other artistic expression published to the site must be licensed to or owned by the content editor.
It is unlawful to publish content that uses work that was created by an artist and not properly licensed by the university. Content using unlicensed materials will be removed as quickly as it is found or reported.
The marketing and communications team manages and maintains a curated collection of college photography through Cornell’s Widen license. These photos are available to any member of the CALS community who wants to use them. These images will be shared through both Widen and the Drupal 8 CMS for use on CALS websites.
If you cannot find photos you wish to use on your website or in other related materials, contact the marketing and communications team to help find or add images to our library.
In order to remain in compliance with web accessibility standards, we warn users against putting text overlay on photos as part of any graphic design treatment as it goes against WCAG 2.0 compliance.
Headers and Banners
CALS branded headers and banners are built into the design system of the website and cannot be altered without the help of the marketing and communications team.
New faculty photos are taken by the marketing and communications team every new academic year in conjunction with a campaign to highlight new faculty. These photos are provided to and available for new faculty to use at their discretion. Faculty who have participated in previous photo shoots through the marketing and communications team also have photos available to them through the brand collection in Widen.
When needed, staff should use an existing headshot of sufficient quality and coordinate its use with the marketing and communications team.
The CALS website surfaces video content through a built-in player. Video files can be uploaded to the Drupal digital asset management system, or URLs can be used to pull content from two services: YouTube or Vimeo. Video from CornellCast can also be shown on the site but only through the use of an iFrame.
In all cases, video must meet WCAG 2.0 standards and requires available closed captioning (CC) and a written transcript.
In order to meet the university’s web accessibility standards, all video is expected to comply with WCAG 2.0 Level AA standards. Video that is presented on the CALS website must include a caption and transcript file.
Audio content needs to be presented in a format that is accessible to the appropriate audio tools.
It is the content editors’ responsibility to remain up-to-date on changes to the approved CMS workflow process and to complete training as needed.
The marketing and communications team is responsible for making available the initial training for all newly credentialed staff and faculty, along with various support documents and training resources. The marketing and communications team will provide regularly scheduled, ongoing training sessions. The workshops will focus on editing, accessibility and content strategy. It is the trainee’s responsibility to absorb the material, to practice what they learn in these sessions and to use the training and style documents that are provided, as well as the other resources.
Each year, the marketing and communications team will communicate the minimum training that existing editors will be expected to complete during that year. Additional training may be required, depending on site, approved CMS, institutional developments and changes and/or needs, and will be communicated as soon as possible.
Cornell University authorizes the creation and use of university social media accounts, provided their use is professional, protects the reputation and brand of the university and complies with Cornell policies and applicable laws and regulations.
A university social media account is any registered account administered by an official university unit on any social network used in support of the business function or needs of that unit. Typically, these accounts include the name of Cornell University and the name of the unit.
Please review Cornell University Policy 4.16 for information about social media use at Cornell.
If you are a member of a CALS-specific department or unit and are interested in launching a new social media account, you should consult the marketing and communications content manager at cals-comm [at] cornell.edu for best practices and additional training.
Responsive web design is an approach to web design and development that suggests that websites should respond to the user’s behavior and environment based on screen size, platform and orientation. CALS is committed to creating responsive websites to improve users’ experiences and make content as accessible as possible to all audiences.
CALS uses Google Analytics and other metrics to measure traffic to the website.
Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager has been embedded in all site pages to provide robust audience tracking. Analysis of these metrics can assist in marketing decisions to allow for continued improvement of the sites.
If you are looking for metrics for your site or access to a dashboard to help you better plan your content, contact the marketing and communications team for assistance.
Everyone with access to the cals.cornell.edu domain, subdomains, third-party web applications and any sites that are part of college business must be familiar with and must follow the university’s web accessibility standards to ensure compliance with the ADA and other accessibility regulations.
It is the responsibility of all users to familiarize and train themselves on the standards set in the policy. Any content that is created or uploaded that does not meet WCAG 2.0 standards is subject to removal by the marketing and communications team until it meets those standards.
The marketing and communications team will facilitate regular web accessibility trainings with Cornell Information Technologies to give users opportunities to better understand and improve their skills in these areas.
Web Help, Support and Emergencies
Web Help Requests
Requests for general assistance for your site must be submitted to calsweb [at] cornell.edu. Please allow one to two business days for a response and at least five business days for turnaround. Any requests submitted directly to a member of the marketing and communications team will be directed to the calsweb [at] cornell.edu address.
In the case of a web emergency (i.e., the site is down, a prominent page on the site is down or a page not found  error appears), please send an email to the marketing and communications team at calsweb [at] cornell.edu. Requests due to operational issues (such as a lack of approved training or failure to plan for employee turnover) do not constitute an emergency and will be processed accordingly.
Major projects such as site redesigns, significant content changes and new site launches must be completed with the oversight of and in conjunction with the CALS marketing and communications team. Such requests will be placed in the marketing and communications team’s queue according to department and strategic priorities. To initiate this process, contact us at calsweb [at] cornell.edu.
All graphics, photographs, video and text of Cornell University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences ("the college") home page and connected pages displaying the college's logotype above are copyrighted, licensed and/or trademarked by Cornell University, Ithaca, New York. Redistribution or commercial use is prohibited without express written permission. For information regarding legal use or to request permissions, contact the CALS Office of Marketing and Communications at cals-comm [at] cornell.edu with a URL of the item for which you wish to obtain permission.
Unless otherwise noted, the photographic images and video content contained on these pages were created by or for CALS. Usage in part or whole must be obtained prior to republication. Logos and graphics representing the college are subject to licensing agreements and are for us by permission only.
Questions regarding this policy should be directed to Cornell CALS at calsweb [at] cornell.edu.
Access to edit or create content in the CALS content management system is granted through the marketing and communications team and is contingent on following the standards and policies set in this document. Failure to comply with those standards and policies grants the site owners to suspend or remove access to edit or create content in the CALS content management system.
The marketing and communications team reserves the right to update this governance policy whenever necessary and will notify editors and content owners of relevant changes that affect them.
The governance model will be reviewed and updated annually to reflect any changes in university policy or to address web best practices. All editors and contributors with active permissions to edit or create content will be updated via email if changes are made to this page.
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