Website and Social Media
SUNY Cortland’s website is an important campus resource, often providing a visitor’s first look at the campus. It is one of the university's primary tools for communicating with key audiences and presenting its public image.
The information contained in the Communication Guide is intended to promote the appropriate use of this medium and to enhance Cortland’s mission, vision and strategic initiatives.
Content management system
A content management system (CMS) is a web application that offers campus community members an easy, efficient and consistent way to create, update, publish and archive information on the web.
The CMS makes it possible for almost anyone to easily manage web content without knowing HTML or other web development tools.
Is it easy?
Yes. With very basic training you will be able to edit your pages in a simple browser-based editor that's similar to Microsoft Word.
Sign up for a training session for an overview of using dotCMS, or to refresh your knowledge in dotCMS and best practices for web content.
What if I already have Adobe Dreamweaver or another web development tool?
For the sake of uniformity, usability and accessibility, you will need to use the CMS. You will be able to edit your pages from any computer connected to the internet without worrying about saving your work to your computer. Also, you'll never have to be concerned about software upgrades or compatibility issues.
For a review of frequently used dotCMS functions, visit SUNY Cortland's dotCMS reference guide. If you have not already been trained in dotCMS and best practices for web content, you will need to schedule training to gain access to dotCMS.
Essential dotCMS Training
Advanced dotCMS Training
Website content and web accessibility standards
Introduction to web accessibility
Web accessibility refers to making web content available and readable to all users, including those with disabilities such as sight or hearing impairments.
SUNY Cortland is committed to providing all its constituents full access to information, programs and activities offered through the web. This effort is pursuant to both New York State policy and federal law, Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
Why is it important?
An estimated 20 percent of the population in the United States has some kind of disability. Accessible websites also benefit users with older browsers and may improve the site's search engine ranking.
- Use headings liberally in your webpages. People who browse using a screen reader can use headings like a table of contents to "skim" through pages.
- Avoid all caps in headings.
- Avoid changing the colors on headings.
- Link text needs to be descriptive of its destination. A visitor should understand where a link will go based on the text of the link alone. Avoid language such as "Click Here" or "Read More".
- When linking to a document other than another webpage, include the document's file format in parentheses at the end of the link:
- Apply "Target: new window" to links sparingly because people who use alternative input devices may find it harder to navigate back to your original page.
Style and formatting
- Styles in the Content Management System (CMS) are set by the templates. Avoid adding custom styles or colors. If you paste content that retains colors, fonts or other custom styles, use the "Clear formatting" button to remove it.
- Use bold sparingly to indicate when text is important.
- Use italics sparingly to emphasize text. Screen readers will voice italic text with emphasis.
- Use all caps only for acronyms or other situations where capital letters are intended. Screen readers may read all caps using a different tone.
Writing for the web
- Keep content short, simple and current.
- Frequent use of bulleted lists, headings and short paragraphs makes content easier to read online.
- All images are required to have a descriptive alt text. When inserting a new image, fill in the image description field by describing its contents.
- Banner photos on pages should be 848px by 403px.
- Resize all images before uploading to the CMS. The maximum width is 850px; most can be much smaller.
- Portrait images are typically 175px wide.
Video and audio
Video content with synchronized audio requires closed captions, and sometimes descriptive audio. Audio content without synchronized video typically requires a descriptive transcript. Visit the accessibility section of the Promotional Video Guide for more information.
Reporting web accessibility problems
The SUNY Cortland web presence consists of hundreds of sites that are managed and maintained by the individual departments and sponsoring organizations. The quickest way to have a web accessibility issue addressed is to contact the owner of the site directly. If the problem remains unresolved, please send notification using our Website Accessibility Feedback Form.
SUNY Cortland’s website is an official communication tool of the university designed for sharing information with the campus community and its constituents.
SUNY Cortland’s Web Policy applies to information: (1) published on servers owned by SUNY Cortland; (2) published within the SUNY Cortland cortland.edu domain; and (3) published elsewhere under direction or control of a SUNY Cortland department, organization or individual, where the contents are identified as SUNY Cortland information.
In many instances, SUNY Cortland’s website is governed by the same policies that regulate similar operations across the university, such as campus advertising policies in the College Handbook, style guidelines in the SUNY Cortland Communication Guide and the Code of Student Conduct. Policies that are specific to use of the website are found in this document.
II. General principles
The website will reflect SUNY Cortland's mission and strategic plan as well as the goals and objectives that emanate from these initiatives.
The content presented on the website will be accurate, timely and responsive to SUNY Cortland’s key audiences. It also will meet the standards articulated in the Communication Guide.
SUNY Cortland has a legal and moral imperative to ensure that its website and webpages on its servers attempt to meet every standard established by New York State’s Office for Technology.
While the university’s official web templates handle most accessibility issues, assistance will be provided to individuals and programs to bring new and/or existing content into compliance. In extreme cases, it may be necessary to temporarily remove content while revising it so that it conforms.
IV. User responsibilities
The ability to add content to the SUNY Cortland website by faculty, staff and students is considered a privilege, not a right, and users must abide by university policies and procedures.
Failure to conform with any SUNY Cortland policy applicable to the website may result in the immediate loss of the ability to publish content on the web.
V. Content management system
The university’s website is managed through a content management system (CMS). Individuals who publish information will be expected to work within the CMS.
VI. Template and content standards for official SUNY Cortland websites
Academic departments, administrative offices and student organizations are required to use the official web template for their page(s) when technically feasible. Web templates are located in the university’s content management system.
Department and administrative office heads are responsible for their unit’s web content. Each department or office shall designate one individual to be responsible for maintaining the accuracy and timeliness of website information and for ensuring that their unit’s webpage adheres to all relevant SUNY Cortland policies. This individual also must acquire training related to creating and maintaining their website.
Students may develop websites for their clubs and organizations. Faculty and staff advisors to student organizations are responsible for those organizations’ webpages, while the Student Affairs Office is responsible for the content of any webpages developed by the Student Government Association.
Web content must meet the following standards:
- All websites should clearly identify the name of the department, office or organization, include contact information and must meet the standards established in the SUNY Cortland Communication Guide.
- Webpage content must not violate copyright or trademark laws and should adhere to the Copyright and Fair Use Policy of SUNY Cortland.
- No anonymous information may be published on the SUNY Cortland website. Information posted on all official SUNY Cortland webpages must contain the email address of the author, owner or sponsor of the information.
- Non-Cortland web content should not use or replicate the university’s templates in a manner that confuses content ownership.
VII. Personal webpages
A personal webpage is defined as a webpage for any SUNY Cortland individual faculty member, staff member or student that contains information of a personal nature unrelated to their responsibilities at the university and to which a link has been established from an official Cortland page.
- Faculty, staff and students - Individual members of the faculty and staff may create their own personal webpages using the information technology resources of the university.
- As authorized by their department head, faculty and staff may link their personal webpages to their department’s home page.
- The following disclaimer must appear on all personal pages to which there is a link from any official university page: "The views and opinions expressed in this page are strictly those of the page author. The contents of this linked page have not been reviewed or approved by SUNY Cortland."
- The content of personal webpages will not be maintained by Information Resources or Marketing Office staff.
- SUNY Cortland does not guarantee the privacy or the public accessibility of personal webpages
- Faculty and staff must abide by the Web Advisory Team's Policy Statement, taken from the SUNY Cortland Communication Guide. If a personal webpage is judged by the Web Advisory Team to contain material that is grossly offensive or inappropriate, the university may remove all links from official Cortland pages to that personal page.
- Personal webpages that violate SUNY Cortland security policies, state and federal laws will be disabled immediately.
- Personal webpages are subject to appropriate use as described in the Information Technology Resources Acceptable Use Policy, Section III, User Responsibilities.
VIII. Advertising on the web
For more information regarding SUNY Cortland’s advertising policy, refer to the College Handbook.
Social media accessibility best practices
Social media has become a daily part of professional and personal lives. SUNY Cortland encourages the use of social media as a way to promote programs and activities. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and others help inform students, employees, alumni and fans of events and newsworthy information. It is a fantastic way to connect and engage audiences.
If you haven’t already, register your social media site.
Making social media accessible
These tools that we have come to use and love are often equally important to a person with a disability. According to the Office of Civil Rights, since SUNY Cortland maintains various social media accounts, it is our responsibility to make the posted content accessible and in compliance with Web Consortium Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, Level A and AA.
- All social media must comply with all applicable SUNY Cortland policies and guidelines, including but not limited to:
- The Communication Guide
- Information Resources policies
- Human Resources policies
- Include contact information on your social media account page. List a primary phone number and email address where users can reach your office or provide a link to your website that lists the appropriate contact information.
- Make your social media content available through more than one channel. Provide easy points of entry for more information. Most social media sites allow embedding of widgets on your website.
- Keep it simple. When possible, write in plain language, limit your use of hashtags, abbreviations and acronyms. When writing hashtags, use CamelCase — capitalizing the first letters of compound words as in #CortlandPride.
- Alternative Text. Adding alternative text or descriptions ensures that people with visual impairments will understand what is going on in the image. The text should be brief, but informative. Each social site has a different method for describing images.
- Learn the accessibility requirements and periodically test your content for accessibility.
- Include descriptive text when you post a photo.
- Add a caption file, Facebook’s auto-captions, or use YouTube’s captioning services for Facebook videos.
- Avoid using acronyms in your posts.
Automatic alternative (alt) text is a feature that uses object recognition technology to create a description of a photo for those who are blind or have visual impairments. Learn how to edit the alt text for photo. As of the writing of this document, alt text can be edited only on a computer.
Add descriptive text to the photos that are posted on Facebook. Good descriptive text can both explain and enhance the meaning of the picture. Avoid extraneous textual information in images.
There are two options for adding captions to videos on Facebook: pages can automatically add captions or a SubRip Subtitle (SRT) may be uploaded.
For more information on accessibility features on Facebook and to stay updated with new ones, visit the Accessibility page on Facebook.
Twitter and photos
Twitter allows image descriptions to be added to images in a tweet, but the feature needs to be turned on in your settings on Twitter.
Navigate to Settings and privacy > Accessibility > and turn on Compose image descriptions.
You will now have the option to add descriptions when posting an image.
- Add descriptions: After enabling image descriptions, select the image when composing a tweet to add the descriptive text. The limit is 280 characters.
- When tweeting a hyperlink, indicate whether it leads to [AUDIO], [PIC], or [VIDEO].
- Place mentions and hashtags at the end of your tweets.
- Capitalize the first letter of each word in a hashtag — #CortlandPride vs. #cortlandpride.
- Avoid using acronyms.
- When uploading an image, add alternative text by choosing Advanced Settings, then Write alt text. Save and finish uploading.
- Use the post description area to include a transcription of video posts or to reiterate the text within your image.
All videos should have closed captions and, if applicable, audio descriptions. Additionally, a transcript can be helpful for those with both visual and hearing impairments.
YouTube automatically captions many videos, but the transcript should always be checked to make sure it is accurate.
If YouTube does not automatically caption your videos, it may be because:
- The video is too long.
- The audio quality is poor.
- The speech from multiple speakers overlaps.
Learn more about video accessibility in SUNY Cortland’s Policy for Official Video.
- Organize your snaps so that they make sense to all users.
- Use the larger text option for captions.
- Make sure there is good contrast and balance between the background and the captions.
Social media resources
Social media directory
- Visuals: Photos and video make a difference. Text on its own on Twitter or Facebook can be effective, but if you can include a photo or video, it will be more impactful.
- Text in images: Let photos speak for themselves. While apps like Canva have become popular and allow you to add text over photos or graphics, this can prevent them from being accessible to all viewers. If you do use text in an image, make sure to add that text to the caption or description. Check out our photo database for images.
- Time of day: The time of your post can matter. Evenings are generally the best time to post since the audience is larger. Time of day, however, is not a magic solution. Good content will shine any time.
- Frequency: Take time between your posts. You don’t want to compete with yourself for attention in a crowded landscape. It’s OK to post multiple times in one day, but leave a few hours between messages.
- Hashtags: Hashtags are often used as flair but can still help you reach new audiences and connect series of messages. They can also be useful to run and maintain a contest.
Commonly used hashtags
Hashtags offer opportunities to connect and encourage engagement with an audience across various social media platforms. Below are some of SUNY Cortland’s most popular hashtags.
- #SUNYCortland: Use for anything related to the university.
- #RedDragonStrong: Show support or encouragement and highlight courage, compassion, solidarity and friendship.
- #RedDragonPride: Celebrate accomplishments, victories and the things that make Cortland and Red Dragons special.
- #CortlandPride, #ProudRedDragon, #RedDragons and #CortlandFamily: Display general school spirit.
- #CortlandRemembers: Express sympathy for deceased students, alumni, etc. or participate in remembrance for a tragedy such as the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks or the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
- #CaptureCortland: Share photos/short video clips of interesting sights around campus.
- #WhyCortland: Crowdsource responses from alumni, current students, faculty and staff on their positive reasons for coming to Cortland.
- #Cortland20: Append appropriate class year and use for Commencement posts.
- #CortlandReunion: Use for posts related to Alumni Reunion.
- #CortacaJug: Cheer on Cortland in the annual rivalry football game against Ithaca College.
- #Cortland150: Used during the SUNY Cortland Sesquicentennial year and related celebrations.
- #SUNYCortlandItsOnUs: Use during the annual It’s on Us sexual assault awareness month events in April.
- #ClimateFriendlyCortland: Use in conjunction with Climate-Friendly Eating Week.
- #CortlandBound: Celebrate acceptance for prospective/incoming students.
- #TourCortland: Invite prospective students to visit campus.
- #NewDragons20: Append appropriate year and use for incoming students and Orientation.
- #CortlandAlumni: Use for general alumni-related posts.
- #HireRedDragons: Highlight alumni doing good work after graduation or share job opportunities.
- #CortlandNYC, #CortlandFLA, #CortlandSYR, #CortlandSOF, #CortlandLAX and #CortlandSAN: Use for regional alumni events.
- #AlumFromDayOne: Encourage current students to think about their future roles as alumni.
- #ParksAlumniHouse: Use for posts related to the Lynne Parks ’68 SUNY Cortland Alumni House.
- #OneTeamOneFamily, #RollRed: Use in support of Cortland athletic teams/individuals.
- #CortlandChallenge: Use for SUNY Cortland's annual day of giving.
- #CortlandGives: Use during National Philanthropy Week.
Social media video tips
The Marketing Office offers training to aid content creators in following the university’s policies and guidelines. Request training.
- Preparation: Review your material ahead of time and do a test recording. Does the recording look and sound right? Are you happy with your appearance?
- Orientation: Rest device on a tripod or stable service. In most cases, shoot horizontally. This will work best for YouTube and social media posts. Vertical video should only be used for Instagram or Facebook stories. Do not change orientation mid-video.
- Framing: Keep the subject’s nose slightly above center and try to keep the face centered horizontally with a level, natural angle (not looking up or down). Avoid cropping the head.
- Sound: If you have access to a microphone, use it, as it can improve sound quality drastically. Be mindful of background noise that may make it hard to hear who’s speaking. Move to a quiet space if possible.
- Lighting: Be mindful if your subject is in shadow and consider moving to a more well-lit area if possible. Also think about backlight. Sitting in front of a window will leave your face in shadow.
- Length: Shorter is almost always better. Aim to capture your audience quickly, try to tell your story efficiently and lead with your most important information.
- Accessibility: Videos accompanied by an audio track need captions. Closed captions (that can be turned on and off) should be used whenever possible. YouTube and Facebook offer automatic captions, but these need to be manually edited for accuracy. Instagram does not support closed captions, so captions need to be “burned in” to the video.