Public Websites in DHHS
Current Effective Date:
Original Effective Date:
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NC DHHS) home page provides a point of entry for information to the public about DHHS officially recognized programs, services and information resources and provides timely content and links to areas of interest. The purpose of this policy is to provide guidelines related to establishing, operating and maintaining public websites within the department.
The primary role of the comprehensive DHHS website is to help NC residents’ access services to enhance their quality of life. Opportunities for healthier and safer lives will be presented in ways that are useful, concise, reliable and easily accessible. Local agencies, state and DHHS employees, partners and providers, businesses and researchers will have a one-stop shop for useful information.
This policy shall apply to all DHHS divisions, offices, facilities and schools. Until the comprehensive DHHS website is operational, each division, office, facility and school shall be represented on the web.
This policy only refers to “public” websites which means any website in DHHS that is available to the public (regardless of the audience). Any site that is created with DHHS resources (funds and/or personnel) regarding the business of DHHS is considered a DHHS website. However, application websites that are password-protected are not subject to the policy. Any current or future intranets in any entity of DHHS are not covered by this policy.
The comprehensive DHHS website shall eventually replace all division, office, facility and school pages, so that the public has a single, integrated website in which to learn about our programs and services.
Once integrated into the comprehensive DHHS website, each division shall retire their current website(s). The only exceptions are websites designated as “branded” websites, websites specifically for training purposes and application websites.
Addresses of the DHHS website: The official URL for the DHHS home page is www.ncdhhs.gov. This is the sole DHHS home page address that should be published in printed materials. Links to the DHHS home page from all DHHS websites should use this address and no other.
The address construction for subsites is www.name.ncdhhs.gov. For example, www.asthma.ncdhhs.gov or www.forms.ncdhhs.gov.
The URL construction for divisions is www.ncdhhs.gov/acronym.
Branded websites: High profile, public service, single issue websites, where an unconventional design is required to get the public’s attention.
Comprehensive DHHS website: The website that integrates all departmental information.
Public websites: Those websites placed on the web for those we serve or might serve, for DHHS management and other state employees, for county agencies, for private and nonprofit partners such as anyone that DHHS licenses, certifies or does business with and for researchers.
Subsite: A distinct portion of the comprehensive DHHS website. It may describe a specific program or service, or provide a distinct document collection such as forms, or a place on the website where the information for a particular audience is concentrated such as county social services departments.
Upper-level pages: Top level of the website, with pages “above” the division level.
Web application: A password-protected website that allows users to execute a set of tasks.
Web standards for DHHS public websites: Standards maintained by the Office of Public Affairs (OPA) with the NC Division of Information Resource Management (DIRM) guidance.
All pages and documents within DHHS websites shall follow the technical and accessibility requirements as outlined in the DHHS Policy and Procedure Manual; Section III; Communications: “Web Accessibility for People with Disabilities.” This guideline applies to all current or new file formats placed on the web.
Authorization and Review
Authorization and review procedures shall be outlined in the web standards for DHHS public websites, maintained by the Office of Public Affairs (OPA) OPA.
The only public websites to be allowed outside of the comprehensive DHHS website are branded sites. Branded websites must follow the guidelines in the broad technical and design guidelines found in the web standards for DHHS public sites.
Existing Branded Websites
The only sites not retired once a division is incorporated into the comprehensive DHHS site shall be existing branded sites. To be considered an existing branded site, approval must come from: 1) the director of the DHHS OPA, and 2) the applicable division, office, facility and school director.
Beginning a year from the effective date of this policy, all content material on DHHS public websites must be “certified” by the owning division, office, facility and school on an annual basis. Certification shall verify that all material on the website is accurate, up-to-date, and follows all web policies. Annual certification reports shall be made to the DHHS OPA.
The content of DHHS websites shall be related to the mission, goals and objectives of the department and be subject to appropriate management controls.
Only official department content shall appear on DHHS websites. The department shall not host web pages for private organizations, including employee organizations or nonprofit entities.
All DHHS websites must include the name of the department and the departmental logo (not the state seal) in the upper portion of the website, with a link to the DHHS home page at www.ncdhhs.gov.
Other content and linking policies as well as technical governance parameters are contained in “Web Standards for DHHS Public Websites.” and the “Website Style Guide.”
If the source of the content in a DHHS web page is not a product of, or authorized by the website owner, the source of the content should be identified, with a link to that organization. For example, the DHHS website might include a report authored by the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). In this example, DENR should be cited with a link to its website.
Customer Service in DHHS Websites
Every website in the department shall include clear contact information for website visitors that is easily accessed on the home page. It may be appropriate to have two (2) contacts: 1) a webmaster email or contact for website visitors having technical problems with the website, and 2) someone who can assist website visitors with questions about the content material on the website.
All responses to email generated by DHHS websites should follow the customer service requirements as outlined in the DHHS Policy and Procedure Manual, Section III, Communications; Customer Service Communication Guidelines; "Customer Service Policy for Electronic Mail (E-Mail)."
The OPA shall maintain a style guide for the comprehensive DHHS website that specifies such practices as linking policies, use of logos, appropriate content for different areas of the website and appropriate file formats.
All Spanish-language web pages must be placed on the centralized Spanish website. This material must follow the procedures in the DHHS Policy and Procedure Manual; Section III; Communications: “Review of Items for Foreign Language Translation.”
Graphics and Design
The comprehensive DHHS website shall have a uniform graphic design, with a set of templates for different content types.
Lobbying Prohibited/Restricted Links
Linking a DHHS webpage to an external website hosted by an individual or organization who is a lobbyist or lobbyist principal as defined in G.S. 120C-100, who is regulated by or seeking to do business with DHHS, or who otherwise seeks to influence executive or legislative action is prohibited. This includes any website that:
Exceptions may be granted if the website belongs to a nonprofit organization engaged in a contractual relationship with DHHS, and there is a compelling reason for establishing a link. Before a DHHS webpage can link to these types of external sites, the link must be approved by the DHHS OPA in consultation with the department’s ethics liaison to the state ethics commission.
Privacy of Website Visitors
Visitors to NC DHHS websites must have the assurance that their privacy will not be violated as a consequence of viewing NC DHHS web pages. Persistent tracking shall not be used to track the activities of users over time. This policy does not apply to session cookies which are only used in the browser session in which they are created. No NC DHHS public website shall collect information from website visitors without disclosure of this policy.
Web oversight responsibilities for the comprehensive DHHS website are as follows:
Office of Public Affairs: The OPA shall designate staff to manage the comprehensive DHHS website. Functions shall include:
Divisions/Offices/Facilities/Schools: Each division, office, facility and school (if the office has a website) shall have the responsibility for creating and maintaining the website content of all of its pages below “upper level” pages, subject to OPA approval.
Each division, office, facility and school shall have a web content manager who:
Webmasters in each division, office, facility and school shall maintain division website content. Content experts in the division, office, facility and school shall write or approve the website content material.
Division of Information Resource Management: DIRM shall provide the technical support for the comprehensive DHHS website, which includes but is not limited to oversight of the technical architecture, permissions, security, database administration, website administration and possible creation of plug-in applications. Depending on service level agreements with NC Information Technology Services (ITS) and vendor contracts, DIRM shall either perform these activities or supervise them. Work expected of DIRM needs to be assessed and approved by DIRM and, if appropriate, approved by the DHHS IT Governance Committee and the State Chief Information Officer.
DIRM, with the input from OPA, shall determine the use of any tools and technology to manage the comprehensive DHHS website.
Existing Web Pages and Content: Existing websites and pages must be brought into compliance with the standard within one (1) year of the initial effective date of this policy
This policy does not apply to password-protected websites or to websites that are primarily web applications. The director of OPA may grant exceptions to provisions of this policy.
For questions or clarification on any of the information contained in this policy, please contact the Office of Public Affairs. For general questions about department-wide policies and procedures, contact the DHHS Policy Coordinator.