Custom-built Sites

While we offer UCSF Site Builder for ease of use, branded design and overall compliance, you are not required to use it. However, if you choose to develop a site independently, you will be responsible for all development costs, accessibility, data security and overall adherence to UCSF policies and standards.

Determine Your Budget

Websites cost money and time to design, develop, host and maintain. Before you embark on a custom project, keep in mind that a custom site can cost in the tens of thousands to build, in addition to the ongoing costs of maintaining a website for security and other issues. Make sure to fully itemize all costs — including design, ongoing hosting, development, staff time and upkeep — before beginning your project.

If your budget is limited, or you can't dedicate appropriate staff resources to the project, consider using the UCSF Site Builder to trim down both initial and ongoing expenses.

Design Your Look & Feel

Whatever CMS you're using, you'll need to comply with UCSF's brand guidelines that specify color palette, imagery, font choices and logo formatting. These have been specifically tailored to ensure consistency across UCSF while meeting legal requirements for accessibility.

If you're using a subcontractor or vendor to develop your overall look and feel, be sure that they reference and understand all specifications listed on our UCSF Brand Identity website. You may also want to explore our Web Patterns Library, a resource for developers across the UCSF community that allows people to borrow and contribute patterns, making it easier to forge functional, beautiful websites or applications with less effort. 

Choose a Hosting Service

UCSF IT provides high-quality hosting services for Drupal websites, at a subsidized cost of $50 per month. This incorporates a number of basic hosting services, including patching, monitoring, version control, nightly backups and optional SAML integration. In addition, you get the added security of fully encrypted hardware, private cloud hosting and a Web Application Firewall (WAF) that will help prevent unexpected cyber-attacks.

If you're not creating a Drupal-based site, your site will not be hosted on UCSF IT-managed web servers. You will need to either work with IT to build a custom UCSF server. There are a number of third-party hosting services to choose from, and you should make sure they fit your budget as well as your needs. 

First, you need to know what kind of website you're building. Take into account what CMS you'll be using, how much traffic you're expecting, and whether you'll need to plan for any unusual use cases.

When looking at hosting companies, investigate their reputation as well as their overall uptime guarantees. Look at how their hosting control panel operates, their sign up rate, renewal fees and what additional features they offer (i.e. site backup). Be aware that, sometimes, something may go wrong, and you may need to reach out to their customer support team. Will they be available 24/7 in case of emergency?

Maintain Data Security Standards

Data security is a complicated topic, and best practices are constantly evolving. Before building a custom site, please consult both the IRB guide on data security as well as UCSF Library’s guidelines on data sharing and data management to understand more about what will be expected of you. There are many facets to consider, ranging from routine, timely security patches to training staff on the proper way to handle sensitive information.

If you hope to collect information from site visitors, be aware that there are a number of laws that specify the kind of information you can collect with restrictions on how that data can be stored. If you're a researcher hoping to recruit clinical trial patients, it may be best to refer those users to UCSF Clinical Trials rather than collecting that information independently.

Select a Vendor or Contractor

If you'd like to build a site from scratch, you'll likely need outside help. Be sure that, whatever vendor you choose, they adhere to all of our web and brand standards. See a list of previously used vendors » (You'll need a MyAccess login to access the list)