Introduction

European Commission services should develop and use EC branded standardised websites for their online communication as much as possible. In exceptional circumstances, where a standardised website cannot accommodate a service's specific communication needs, it is possible for a Commission service to develop an EC branded harmonised website instead. Harmonised websites allow for greater flexibility in terms of website design and development. The instances when a harmonised website can be considered are given below as well as the rules on their development.

Background

Harmonised sites host specific content that answers a particular communication purpose:

Sites that do not directly match any of these categories will be analysed by DG COMM who will define the applicable rules and guidelines.

Rules

URLs

According to Europa domain rules, EC branded harmonised websites are hosted on the 3rd level domain of the Commission (ec.europa.eu), following the URL structure.

Exceptionally, where a site is jointly owned with a third party, it may be hosted outside the ‘europa.eu’ domain. The address should be decided on with the third party, with preference given to the top-level domain ‘.eu’. DG Comm must validate this choice

Ownership

All content on EC websites is under the responsibility of one or more Commission Departments.

Site owners must

Creation and revamp

Creation and revamp of harmonised websites must be approved by DG Comm B3 through the revamps and new websites procedure.

Content

The content must follow the writing guidelines and be translated according to the language policy.

Breadcrumbs

Rules

The first element of the breadcrumb must always be labelled 'Home' and must link to the homepage of the actual site where the current user page is located. The home page is followed by its child pages, e.g. Home > 1st level of the website > 2nd level > page title.

Usability testing has proven that it is better to put the label 'Home' rather than the name of the site because it is:

Exceptions: if a small site is integrated into a larger site - for technical reasons, for example - the first element of the breadcrumb may link to the homepage of the larger site.

Design

EC branded harmonised websites must follow general rules on logos and icons and specific EC branded harmonised websites design rules.

They must comply with accessibility rules.

Development

The use of the Europa Web Publishing Platform for harmonised sites depends on the specific website requirements and needs to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Legal aspects

Harmonised websites must comply with Privacy, security and legal notices.