Standards for State Websites

All state of California websites within the executive branch are required to conform to California’s design, usability, and accessibility standards.


The design has been created following usability guidelines to create a strong brand presence for the state of California. At the same time, the design provides flexibility for state agencies to create their brand identity alongside the California brand.

The standards require use of the standard template as contained in WebTools. These standards are provided to facilitate the creation of consistent, recognizable, and usable page layouts on all California web sites.

Separation of Presentation and Content

The standards require the use of Cascading Style Sheets to apply style, formatting, and positioning to web pages. In addition to Cascading Style Sheets, departments with large or complex websites may opt to use Cascading Style Sheets in conjunction with master templates and/or a content management system to further separate HTML design elements from content for ease of maintenance and to simplify web authoring.

The state has developed ready-to-use templates that use Cascading Style Sheets to improve consistency across departments, lessen the burden on department resources, and help address the issue of varying skill sets across department web developers. These templates are available in WebTools.


State websites must meet both the web accessibility standards in California Government Code 11135, which adopted the Section 508 standards issued by the United States Access Board, and the Priority 1 and 2 level checkpoints of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG 2.0 “AA” Conformance Level) developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). In addition, State agencies subject to this policy must:

  1. Avoid using small images or text as links.
  2. Avoid using frames.
  3. If a downloadable document cannot be provided in an accessible electronic format, provide information on how to request an alternate format.
  4. Provide contact information.
  5. Test for accessibility.

These additions increase the level of accessibility and empowerment to a website visitor or employee with a disability without difficulty or major expense.

State agencies subject to this policy must take reasonable steps to design and develop web sites that are accessible to people with disabilities as well as those without disabilities. Web page developers, designers, programmers, and content providers should become familiar with the standards and guidelines for achieving universal Web accessibility and should apply these principles in designing and creating any official state websites.

California Accessibility Standard (PDF)


All state websites must practice good usability principles, and must adhere to California’s usability standards for web site development. The purpose of usability is to design websites that allow visitors to the site to complete a task, solve a problem, express an opinion, or find an answer to a question quickly and easily. Poor web page design leads to wasted time, reduced productivity, increased frustration, loss of confidence, inaccuracies, and loss of repeat visits.

California Usability Standard


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