Step 2: Design Your Website

When designing a website for the United Nations, it is important to keep in mind UN brand and style guidelines, so that your website is recognized as an authentic UN site. UN branding is achieved by using common elements, which identifty your site as belonging to the UN. These elements primarily include the language bar and the footer, as well as the UN home page link at top left, fonts, colors and other UN web style guidelines.

Common elements of UN websites

The common elements that appear on all UN web sites are the following:

  1. Skip links: These links are placed at the very top of the page, directly above the <main> div in order to enable a user to skip down to more relevant content. These links are an accessibility feature, invisible to the average user, and will only display when someone navigates the site using keyboard navigation (tab key) or a screen reader. 
  2. Branding bar: This bar provides a common branding on all UN websites. It offers a link back to the UN homepage as well as a global search for un.org.
  3. Language bar: All UN websites must be created in the six UN official languages. The language bar is displayed directly below the branding bar on every website’s homepage. Links to languages are sometimes displayed on second-layer pages, as well.
  4. Banner: The top banner provides the website’s title. Text on a banner image cannot be read by a screen reader or a search engine and it disappears if users turn images off in their browser settings. Therefore, the text should always be coded in HTML format, either overlaying the banner graphic or hidden behind the banner graphic.
  5. Navigation: The design and structure of the navigation must remain consistent on all pages. The current page should be highlighted in the navigation. For example, when viewing the "About us" page, the "About us" navigation link should be highlighted on that page.
  6. Content area: Gather as much of your content as possible before creating your design. Use styles to highlight and structure content in a way that makes your message clear and distinct.
  7. Footers: The main footer appears on all UN web pages. It is at the bottom of the page and consists of links to the following common pages: Copyright, Terms of Use, Privacy Notice, Site Index and Fraud Alert. The credit footer credits the office responsible for building the site and appears on the site's home page.

Accessible Design

In order to make information on the UN and its activities available to the widest range of audiences, and in keeping with resolutions of the General Assembly, the Department of Public Information (DPI) is actively pursuing accessibility of the United Nations website by persons with disabilities. The objective of DPI is to comply with the Web Content Accessibility guidelines of the World Wide Web Consortium standards, which at the present time are the only standards with worldwide recognition. Following the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on 13 December 2006 (resolution 61/106), the General Assembly requested the Secretary-General to progressively implement standards and guidelines for the accessibility of facilities and services of the United Nations System. To assist other departments and offices in producing accessible web content, those guidelines were prepared by a task force composed of members of the Web Services Section of DPI.

WSS has created a website explaining accessibility guidelines for United Nations websites.

Development Server

During the design phase, you should use the development server on http://dev.un.org. This server mirrors the production server on www.un.org but is not visible to the public outside the UN network. There, you will be able to experiment with different design elements, in an environment that only those within the United Nations computer network can access. When you request access to the production server, you will also be given access to the development server.

Quality Assurance

When the site is complete it is uploaded to the production server, and given a URL (Uniform Resource Locator or Internet address). The more dynamic your site is (e.g. if you are linking to a database), the more it needs to be tested, and re-tested, before and after launch. This is part of quality assurance.