Step 1: Plan Your Website

Before you design and build your UN website, you should plan it carefully. Website planning involves setting goals, identifying your audience and stakeholders, preparing and organizing content, and writing up a budget and a timetable for the completion of your project, taking into consideration budgetary and time constraints. On this page we explain how to create a website plan, and we provide you with downloadable forms you can use to help you define and clarify all aspects of your website project before starting it.


To plan your website, you need to know what your goals are. The following will help you define your goals:

  1. Briefly describe your office, event, campaign.
  2. Define the primary purpose of your website.
  3. When someone visits your website, what three things (in order of priority) do you want them to know (or do)?
    (Keep in mind 2 minutes is the average time a user spends on a website.)
  4. Who are your primary and secondary target audiences? (e.g. the general public, delegates, journalists)

Download Goals Template



Now you need to define who your stakeholders are.

Every website is different, but the typical stakeholders in a website project are the people with these roles:

  • Project manager;
  • Copywriter and editor;
  • Web designer (graphic design, illustration, web design);
  • HTML coder (HTML, CSS, JavaScript, etc.);
  • Web or CMS developer.

Identify your stakeholders and keep in mind that one person can play multiple roles.

Download Stakeholders Template



The creation and maintenance of a website requires financial resources. So you need to know how much your website will cost.

Help determine the cost of your project by answering the following questions:

  • Is this an update to an existing site, a redesign of an existing site, or the creation of a new site?
  • How many pages will the site have?
  • How often will it be updated?
  • Does your office/campaign/event already have a visual identity or does it need to be developed?
  • Do you need a contact form?
  • Do you need to integrate multimedia content?
  • How much of the content will require translation into the UN's official languages?
  • Do you need to present information from a database?
  • Do you need to collect information from your visitors to store in a database?
  • Will you be outsourcing site maintenance or will the website be maintained in-house?
    If you maintain it in-house:
    • What level of technical expertise do you have?
    • Will training be required?
    • Will you need to purchase software licenses?
    • Will you need a content management system?

You can develop and maintain your website in-house - or you can outsource this work to an external company - or to the Web Services Section of the UN Department of Public Information. When you are in the initial phases of planning your new UN website, you can contact the Web Services Section of DPI for a cost estimate.


Your content is the text, images, video, audio, feeds and documents on your site. It is important to gather as much of your content as you can before you begin designing and building your site. Your design should make clear where content will be placed and your site should be easy to navigate. As the authoring office, you are responsible for all content posted on your website. You should know what you want to convey on each page. You should consult with your web developer on how to best share your content with them, to help make their work more efficient. The web developer may ask you to use certain naming conventions for files, a minimum resolution for images, including captions and credits for photos, and so on. This will speed up the process and make everyone's job easier.


Before posting content, make sure that:

  • The accuracy of all text has been checked and approved by the author.
  • You have the right to publish your text on the web.
  • You have the right to publish your videos on the web.
  • You have the right to publish your photographs on the web.*
  • Your department has cleared all content for publication.

See the European Commission's page on writing for the webExternal Link

*  The use of United Nations photographs is permitted with proper attribution. This includes photographs used in design elements. For non-United Nations photographs, copyright clearance should be obtained before publication. This clearance should be retained on file for future reference.

Any reference to a UN document on your UN site must link to the Official Document System (ODS) if the document is available in ODS.

Download Content Template


Navigation and Site Map - How to Organize your Content

Once you know what content you are going to put on your website it is time to create a site map like the one shown below. A typical UN website has a Home (introductory) page as well as a Background (About Us) page. You can also have 'Events', 'Resources', 'Documents' and 'Contact' pages and others. You can always add sub-menus to the main navigation items to give your users access to more content. It is recommended that a site not have more than six main menu items. Multimedia such as photos, photo galleries, videos and audio can be placed on a dedicated Multimedia page and/or on individual pages.

Website navigational map


UN Web accessibility LogoThe UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recognizes access to information and communications technologies, including the Web, as a basic human right. Creating websites accessible to users with disabilities benefits all users. Learn more on how to make accessible websites for the United Nations




Post a copyright notice on your site to protect your own material.

Respect the copyright of others.

>> See our standard copyright page.


As stated in the Administrative Instruction quoted above, if you are linking to an external website not part of the UN system, including websites of NGOs, or commercial sites, it should be clear that the United Nations does not endorse the website being linked to. A disclaimer should be used to clearly make this point.

An example of text that can be used as a disclaimer:

"References to external web sites must not be seen as an endorsement on the part of the United Nations of external organizations not part of the United Nations system, including non-governmental organizations, or of commercial establishments and products."


>> See our disclaimers page.


A secure website isn’t only about preventing hackers from gaining access to your site, but also about reducing the risk of improper access and/or loss of information. Any negligence in website security can result in the site being compromised from either the technical or editorial side. Administrators should use caution when employing dynamic pages and forms, and should reduce the dependency on database-driven pages, if applicable. Web Administrators also need to properly test any third-party applications, and monitor FTP and DB access and passwords, especially on machines that have such passwords saved and are open to multiple users.

Regular backups also serve as fail-proof solutions to restore your website quickly while debugging any security issues.

How to use a secure contact form

Email Contact Forms

A contact form or an email form is a critical part of a website, allowing users to contact you regarding one or more issues. Please refer to the following guidelines in this regard.

  • no direct email address on the website in order to prevent receiving spam emails;
  • validate that the user has actually entered a message and a subject;
  • also validate the format of the email address;
  • give the user confirmation of the email being sent, or of an error occurring.
Advanced Validation

Use scripts that do not show the email address. The server side scripting should deal with all the data.


Basics on using dynamic/database-driven web content — follow these guidelines to mitigate cross-site scripting/SQL injection issues in ASP code:

  • Validate user input to reject all invalid input;
  • Use parameterized queries for data manipulation statements (SELECT/INSERT/UPDATE/DELETE);
  • Access the database using an account with the least privileges necessary;
  • Install the database using an account with the least privileges necessary;
  • Use stored procedures;
  • Re-validate data in stored procedures;
  • Ensure that error messages give nothing away about the internal architecture of the application or the database;
  • Warn those who are visiting your site of potential fraud.


All Secretariat entities using and domain names are obligated to register details of all Internet domain names of the United Nations Secretariat with the Department of Public Information. domain names are those websites that are a part of, while domain names include all domain names that are used by the Secretariat but are independent of

Requests for registration of new websites are received and processed by WSS to ensure that all such websites meet multilingualism and accessibility requirements, as well as web standards.

Websites maintained by UN Secretariat entities should be hosted under or a subdomain of

Registration of websites on the UN.ORG domain

To request hosting under, please contact the Web Services Section of DPI to discuss the technical specifications of your project. If your project requires a specific server configuration, it will be hosted under a subdomain (such as Complete this form to register a UN.ORG subdomain Word.

Once your hosting solution is identified, you will be granted posting rights to upload your content on through FTP access. To request posting rights, identify the Approving Officer, who will be responsible for all content posted on the site and complete the posting rights request form Word.

Registration of websites on non-UN.ORG domain names

WSS is responsible for maintaining a registration database of domain names used by UN Secretariat entities for the purposes of risk management and accountability. domain names include all domain names that are used by Secretariat entities, but are independent of Users of independent domain names must have appropriate procedures in place to ensure the timely renewal of the domain name upon expiration to avoid registration by a third party, thereby exposing the Organization to branding and operational security risks.

All Secretariat entities using domain names are obligated to enter and update information on a regular basis on the following: focal point(s) contact details, the domain name, domain name registrar, dates of registration and expiration, and purpose of the independently registered website. The registration data will be managed by WSS. Use this for registration of non-UN.ORG Internet Domain Names.

UN.ORG subdomain form Non-UN.ORG Domain form Posting rights request form



What's the difference between a CMS and an HTML site? Do you need a CMS?


A content management system (CMS) is advantageous if your site, or major parts of it are updated frequently and by multiple stakeholders who work collaboratively. Additionally if you are actively maintaining databases like country data or a document repository, a CMS might be the best solution for you. CMS platforms come at a higher cost of development and maintenance, and may take longer times to deploy as they require more interactions between various departments of the Secretariat and constant security updates. The Office of Information and Communications Technology (OICT) has selected Drupal as the CMS for United Nations websites. OICT also supports existing Wordpress sites.

HTML Sites

Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), is a standardized system for tagging text files in a way that can be rendered by web browsers. HTML sites are considered flat sites in the sense that the data on the site is not generated dynamically. HTML sites allow quicker customization and are usually faster to build and are the recommended solution if your site does not require frequent updates and does not rely on databases. This simplicity also allows HTML sites to load faster.

Do HTML and CMS sites look different?

No. HTML and CMS sites may in fact look identical and the solution chosen will have no impact on the look and feel of the site.