You don’t need a redesign you need a web strategy (Part two)

October 23, 2008

What does a web strategy entail? A few items are essential. Identifying target and secondary audiences will be a key component. Once a strategy identifies these audiences decisions can be based on what the needs are of those specific audiences. Of course the easy answer here is that the web needs to speak to all audiences. While this is a nice, politically correct answer it will make your web manager’s job more difficult in the future. Part of developing a strategy is making tough choices.  By identifying who your website is designed for you are then able to address other audiences with strategies designed to give them the information they need.

A strategy should not just involve your public website in order for it to be successful. A careful calculation of all web tools should be done to create a comprehensive plan. A strategy needs to include e-communication tools, the college portal, e-commerce, and college related mini sites. It also needs to be developed within a collaborative environment.

Most institutions have some kind of overarching web group that “manages” or “oversees” the web.  A strategy should be developed and then implemented by a strategic team. Key players from around the institution should be included on the team and it should be led by the person with operational responsibility. The team will need to work collaboratively to meet development, enrollment, and retention needs. This strategic web group also needs to take responsibility for assessment, developing and tracking metrics, and benchmarking strategies. Assessing marketing efforts is an area where higher ed really falls down.

to be continued…

You don’t need a redesign you need a web strategy (Part One)

September 27, 2008

Each year higher ed spends more money, creates more positions, buys more products and services for the web but does your institution have a strategy behind these actions? Even if there is a strategy are there benchmarks and metrics in place to assess the strategy?

Over the course of the last 8 years that I have worked in higher ed I have found through my time in athletics, admissions, and now the web that we “throw” money at problems and challenges dealing with technology. Institutions would be better served to take 6 months and create a true strategy for their web efforts and then put the people in place to execute that strategy.

The website and in broader terms your institutions web presence is no longer just a medium for the school to communicate like the alumni magazine and e-newsletter but instead it represents the very essence of your school just like the buildings on your campus or the people who work at the school.

What does a strategy mean? Or better yet what does a strategy not mean. Simply redesigning a website in house is not a web strategy but instead a stop gap measure that might not even solve the challenges that institutions face. If a building needs to be upgraded it isn’t just done on a whim by the facilities department instead it often gets looked at as part of a broader campus master plan that had input from the campus community and was designed to meet the needs of campus from a facilities standpoint for the next 10, 15, or 20 years Why don’t we do the same thing with our web strategy?

Some would argue that it is too tough to create a strategy with technology since the technology changes so rapidly. That’s why you need a strategy in place that does not focus solely on the “latest and greatest” technologies but instead – focuses on your ability to adapt and respond working collaboratively and within teams. A strategy with this focus allows you to enhance and change as technology moves forward without losing site of your institutions mission and brand.

to be continued….

Web Redesign to Web Governance

May 7, 2008

Susan Evans my colleague from William & Mary prompted this post by asking about Web Governance. During the web redesign process the president will appoint some sort of “oversight” committee, work group, or task force. Eventually the redesign process will come to an end and the question will arise what happens to that group and how do we continue to make decisions about the web?

At Gettysburg we used our “Web Task Force” originally tasked by the President to oversee the redesign as an ongoing group to develop and implement the strategic web vision of the College. After we launched we expanded the group to represent all divisions of the college. In terms of governance I think this is one of the keys. If everyone is not at the table your group won’t be as strong.

One of the first things I did with the group was develop a document about who was on the task force and what we were supposed to do. Without a document like this the group has very little chance of being effective. I decided early on that I did not need an operational group but instead needed this group to focus on strategic items.

Some of the early lessons learned for me was to make sure everyone clearly understood how decisions/recommendations are made, what issues the task force would tackle, and how our meetings would be structured. To get out from under the operational focus I moved our meetings to discussion based and instead of an update that I would normally give at the meeting I started to provide it in writing and just open the floor for questions about the update. This strategy helped move the group from operational to strategic.

We also moved from weekly hour long meetings to monthly two hour meetings which allowed us to tackle the larger strategic issues and provided enough discussion time. This was not the most popular decision but when people feel their time is used well they don’t mind slightly longer meetings.

There are lots of ways to organize and govern the web after redesign but here are a few critical things to keep in mind no matter what your structure:

· Representation – make sure every division of your institution has someone on your team

· Educate – this group can help you so educate them on current trends

· Definition – define what the group does and how it does it

William & Mary redesign Blog

April 15, 2008

Over the weekend I ran into an interesting idea that I thought I would highlight here. William & Mary is in the middle of a web redesign and I believe a CMS implementation. (Not 100% sure) Here is a link to the blog.

In the world of Web 2.0 this is a great way to engage the campus community in a process where to be successful you need “buy-in”. When redesigned our site in 2006 we had a webpage but it didn’t provide the opporutnity for comments nor was it updated regularly. This would have been a much more helpful approach.

Nice job to the W & M web team!