Web publishing

The Harvard Chan School website is our virtual front door for millions of visitors from around the world. That audience, comprised of students, faculty, staff, alumni, prospective students, public health professionals, and the general public, should always come first. Visitors should be able to quickly find the information they are looking for, and content must be accessible to all (including people who navigate the web with assistive technology).

Members of the Office of Communications and Information Technology teams work together via the Web Communications Working Group to support, maintain, and improve the School’s website. However, it is incumbent on all School site editors to ensure that their site’s information is accurate, up-to-date, and follows accessibility and style guidelines for content creators.

To that end, the Web Communications Working Group provides asynchronous training for all site editors.

If your group’s needs go beyond basic site updates, or if you are part of a new group or initiative looking to start a website from scratch, please review the guidance below.

Process for requesting a new site or improving an existing one

1. Submit a request

Whether you are building a new site from scratch or looking to improve or redesign an existing site, your first step is to submit information on your project through the website request form linked at the end of these steps. This will notify the Web Communications Working Group, and someone will reach out to schedule an initial consultation.

2. Initial consultation

An initial consultation is required for all new websites, those involving a major overhaul, or when seeking to engage with an outside vendor. Projects of this nature are subject to approval from the Web Communications Working Group prior to initiation. In some cases, projects will be referred to the Web Governance Committee for further review.

During this meeting, we will discuss your project, your goals, and go over your options when it comes to addressing your content and design. Depending on the complexity of your project, some follow-up meetings may be required.

At the initial consultation, it’s best to come prepared with information on the following:

  • Business and/or strategic objectives for the site
  • The audience types who will visit the site and what you want them to do
  • Do you have the resources to maintain this site? Who in your unit will be the primary content manager, and who will be the secondary managers
  • Ideas on how you would like your site to be structured (for example, what major categories and subcategories of content there will be)
  • Review information provided in the website hosting policy

In certain cases, some approvals may be required by other entities at the School and University. For example, if you want to use a custom domain or if your website cannot follow the School’s website hosting policy.

The School’s web governance policies also determine what type of website presentation (concerning themes, platforms, and brand identity) is permissible based on the type of organization and its relationship to the School. Based on the information gathered in your initial consultation, the Web Communications Working Group will recommend a solution for building your site.

3. What are my options?

The School’s web governance policies determine what type of website is permissible based on your situation. These guidelines are closely aligned with those about logos and branding described in another section of this guide, Guidelines on the use of names, insignias, and logos.

Note: Any website presenting affiliation with Harvard Chan School must follow the website hosting policy.

Main theme Affiliate theme OpenScholar Externally-built*
Departments, offices, programs, and divisions Required No No No
School-wide and University-wide research centers, initiatives, and labs Recommended Yes Yes Yes
Research programs and projects, research cores Recommended Yes Yes Yes
Collaborative initiatives, centers, and projects (multiorganizational) Yes Recommended Yes Yes
Individual faculty websites** or labs Yes Yes Yes Yes
Student organizations No No Recommended Yes
Single events Single events should be posted on the events calendar.
Special projects (e.g., fellowships, conferences, symposia) Special projects should usually exist within a parent organization’s site. If you believe your specific needs warrant a standalone site, please contact us via the website request form for a consultation.

*All organizations seeking to have a site externally built must receive advance permission from the Web Governance Committee.

**Prior to embarking on a faculty website project, we recommend ensuring that the content needs are not already met by the faculty member’s academic profile.

4. Build scenarios

Note: If you meet the requirements and have decided to engage with Harvard Web Publishing or an external vendor for your site, please contact the Web Communications Working Group to ensure there are no outstanding questions about your site and receive final permission to begin the project.

A. Harvard Chan School WordPress website (Main and Affiliate themes)
Working directly with Harvard Chan School’s Web Communications Working Group is the best way to ensure that your site meets all of the School and University requirements for branding, accessibility, user experience, security, and compliance.

Members of the Web Communications Working Group will create your website on our platform. You will be responsible for adding content to pages and ensuring that content is kept up to date after launch. To assist, you will have access to:

  • An online, do at your own pace, training module on the Harvard training portal
  • An optional 1 on 1 training and onboarding session
  • Access to our growing library of School-specific WordPress documentation
  • Demo sites that show various capabilities live
  • Support from IT helpdesk and open office hours
  • Access to the Digital Communications Slack channel, consisting of 50+ current users

There is a School-based solution for all types of organizations. Here are some examples of Harvard Chan School WordPress sites:


B. Harvard Web Publishing (Prebuilt and custom themes using OpenScholar)

Using the OpenScholar platform, your team will build your own site with prebuilt themes. You will have the option to hire the Harvard Web Publishing team to further customize your site. All support and training will be provided by Harvard Web Publishing.


C. Externally-built website
Groups that have affiliations with multiple institutions, whether internal or external to Harvard University, may elect to work with the web development teams in their collaborating institutions.

Groups seeking to hire an external design or development vendor to build their website must receive advance permission from the Web Governance Committee. Groups that engage with an outside vendor are required to be hosted on the School’s servers and will need to comply with the website hosting policy. However, the School will not provide support and maintenance for these sites. The group budget for ongoing professional maintenance of their sites, including, but not limited to: WordPress core and plugin updates, bug fixes, unforeseen issues, and feature improvements

5. Review

Groups working with the Web Communications Working Group will have ongoing touchpoints with our team throughout the design and build process.

For those groups not working with the Web Communications Working Group, we strongly encourage you to share progress and previews with our team to ensure the website meets all of the policies and guidelines set by the University and School. This ensures no additional measures will need to be taken prior to launch in order to align with policy. Members of our team are well-versed in each of these items and can provide clarity and valuable assistance.

6. Launch

Once all design, content, and functionality has been finalized, tested, and approved, it will be made accessible to the public. For websites hosted on our platform, we can assist with a strategy for archiving or redirecting old content, discoverability on search engines, and/or communication around the site launch.


Retiring an inactive site

In the event that your initiative ends, lacks the staff to maintain the site, or has not been updated for two or more years, the site will be taken down. This will be done at the discretion of the Web Governance Committee. Before taking down a site, the committee will:

  • Attempt to identify and contact any parties associated with the site. These could include:
    • Site administrators on record
    • Faculty associated with the initiative
    • Departments associated with or that house the initiative
    • Outside vendors who may have previously managed the site
  • Offer advice on migrating or archiving content