Working with Agencies

Some areas of campus work with agencies to create websites.

This page outlines considerations you must take into account when working with an agency on website design, layout, and functionality. This page does not cover information about other agency services, such as SEO audits or paid advertising promotions.

You are responsible for ensuring this information has been communicated clearly to the agency you have hired. Failure to adhere to these expectations may result in a website that cannot be implemented or supported.

General guidelines

Prior to signing a contract with an agency, you must take the following steps:

  • Get approval from the Office of Information Technology Web Team (OIT) and Development and External Affairs (DEA). OIT and DEA may have preferred agencies or in-house design options that may considerably reduce time and expense.
    • If you are not the marketing lead for your area, you will also need to ensure your school or division's marketing lead has reviewed your plans.
  • Have a plan for your website implementation. Prior to working with an agency, you will need to clarify what services they provide for website implementation. You or your agency, must be able to implement the website they have created, and you must also be able to maintain the website. OIT is not resourced to implement agency designs. This includes providing custom development, site builds, or support. It is imperative all parties understand these expectations in advance.
  • Have a plan and budget for long-term support. Any custom code created by the agency must be supported by the agency and be usable throughout the life of the website.
  • Have a plan for long-term content maintenance. Be ready to own your content. Once your site is implemented, you will be responsible for future content creation and editing.

Agency responsibilities

How do agencies typically work?

Often, agencies create their own designs. While some agencies prefer to implement their own work, other agencies expect you - or another party, such as OIT - to implement their designs. Additionally, most agencies will create their own design components rather than make use of existing components provided by the university.

This approach will be problematic and may result in a site that cannot be published as it may not meet our guidelines and may be too costly to implement, support, and maintain.

OIT and DEA have created a standardized set of design components available for Sitecore users and guidance on when to use these components. Unless you have received express agreement from OIT and DEA, your agency must use these components rather than create new design components.

Considerations for design and layouts

  • Websites must be implemented with the Sitecore content management system. You may be breaking the university's policy if you use alternative options for website hosting. Do not work with an agency or contractor who is unable or unwilling to use Sitecore.
  • Agencies must adhere to SMU's brand guidelines. This includes guidance on content creation, color, fonts, and photography.
  • Agencies must adhere to OIT's website guidelines. This includes guidance on SEO, web accessibility, design and layout.
  • Agencies must adhere the SMU's web accessibility policy.
  • Agencies must use SMU's website templates and design components in a standard way. This includes the website framework (masthead and footers), page layouts, and design elements without modifying the component with custom code.
  • Agencies may not create custom design components that require HTML, CSS, or JS to implement unless this work has been cleared with OIT before your engagement. Likewise, agencies may not modify SMU's existing design components with CSS or JavaScript in an attempt to create a new design or layout.
  • Agencies may not create or modify SMU's logos.

Finalized designs must be approved by OIT prior to site construction.

Considerations for custom development

Unless you have received express approval from both DEA and OIT, your agencies must use the pre-approved design and layout options. Custom development (HTML, CSS, JS) must not be used to create, build, or maintain content. Exceptions must be reviewed and approved by DEA and OIT prior to site build.

If we do not have a prior agreement, OIT will not be available to assist with web development requests made on behalf of an agency, nor will OIT be able to troubleshoot issues that arise with agency-created designs. You – or the agency – must be able to implement and support any customizations made to your site.

Any customizations must adhere to SMU's web accessibility policy and be fully supported by the agency.

Please note: If your agency has custom-coded elements or used CSS and JavaScript to modify elements, it is possible your site will not be eligible to be migrated into future iterations of the SMU website and brand without significant redesign work.

Website implementation

You, your agency, or a contractor must be able to implement and maintain the design you receive from the agency. You will be responsible for creating and adding content after your site launch as well. Please ensure you have somebody on staff who can provide this service.

Services the OIT Web Team can provide

  • We can set up the basic framework for your site (masthead and footer elements) prior to you and/or your contractors building the content. This service is only available for content that adheres to our website style guide.
  • We provide documentation and training on how to use Sitecore.

Additionally, although OIT web team is not staffed to implement, troubleshoot, or maintain agency designs, we are able to troubleshoot issues with components we have created.

What services you and your agency must provide

  • Site architecture
  • Website content (copy, photography, videography, etc.)
  • Website implementation (unless you have received express advance approval from OIT)
  • Website maintenance
  • Website support (if custom components are created)

Ongoing website support

OIT can support and troubleshoot issues with website components we have created. We cannot provide support for custom components or code created by agencies.

You are responsible for content creation and editing associated with your site.

Alternative options

Both OIT and DEA provide design services on behalf of the university. This includes content migration from older templates to new templates.

Please check with us in advance of working with an agency. We may be able to provide a similar service with the guarantee your website will adhere to SMU's brand guidelines and be fully supportable when questions arise.