Who is Your Client?

I’ve noticed that in higher ed, the word “client” refers to anyone except the school’s target audience. It’s usually a department head, an administrator or a project lead — essentially, anyone internally associated with the school. In an agency setting, that would make sense. You answer to the people who hire you because they pay your bills. In higher ed, though, students pay the bills, not your colleague in the next office. Internal personnel are your team members. They should help you (and you them) create the best experience for your true clients. Now, I’ve simplified things down to students…

There’s A Happy Medium Between Centralization & Decentralization

One of my main points of advice for higher ed websites is the idea that operationally, a decentralized management approach to the web does not work well. The opposite–centralization–does. But that doesn’t mean some aspects to a decentralized approach can’t or shouldn’t be employed. It just shouldn’t be the foundation for how to manage the global operation of the site. That spells trouble. So where does decentralization make sense? The obvious answer is content. Higher ed sites are large, if not huge, relative to many websites and the thought of centralizing that amount of content into a few hands doesn’t seem…

Marketing ≠ Visitor Experience

I support the centralization of web operations in higher ed. Decentralized website management poses too many problems which centralization can alleviate. But gaining support for it poses problems within a system historically based on a decentralized system. One of those hurdles is the perception that a centralized approach kills the ability to market a school effectively. I say that’s nonsense.

The 1-to-1 Relationship

Karlyn Morissette once again posts about a great topic for universities: how to solve the problems we all know exist as web people who work in the higher ed space. I agree with her views that we need to brainstorm, promote and implement solutions since we all know very well what the issues are. So, here’s my take on how to affect change through culture.

CMS- Proprietary or Open Source?

HigherEdWebTech has a series of excellent suggestions in response to Karine Joly’s call for cost saving measures for higher ed websites. One suggestion was to go open source. I think that’s an excellent idea- one grounded on social media principles of harnessing the power of crowds. I imagine many who read that last phrase would nod in agreement. Unfortunately for my school, it seems open source is looked down upon specifically because it’s open source- there is no big company (or small for that matter) behind it. This is all speculation on my part as I’m just a lowly designer who’s not privy…

The Speed of Twitter

I haven’t been a long time user of Twitter, but now that I have Twitterific forever occupying the lower right corner of my monitor, I’ve increasingly noticed how much quicker the twittersphere is at reporting breaking news than traditional news sources. A couple of interesting take-aways here:

What Higher Ed Sites Could Learn From Barack Obama

One of the main arguments I hear against my mantra of centrally maintained websites for higher ed is that a decentralized approach allows academic departments the flexibility to market their programs based on their students’ specific characteristics and needs. Academic department’s tell me that their particular students are special and different from all other departments’ students. Therefore, their website has to have a custom design in order to stand out.

How To Turn Around A Problematic Site

There’s no shortage of criticism about the University of Denver website. As its web designer, I get grief about it from colleagues, students, parents and friends. Even I think its pretty bad, but the challenge to improve it is enticing. When I accepted my job a year ago, I didn’t fully appreciate how ingrained the status quo was in terms of the existing website. I figured I could ride into town, inject my outsider’s perspective and years of experience and get things turned around. Well, as you might imagine, I was naive. It’s been difficult, time consuming and just plain…

The Step Before Defining A Website’s Goals

“Redesign the (fill in the blank)’s website,” upper management directs you. “No problem,” you obligingly respond, “I’ll get right on it.” But then what? How do you undertake something seemingly innocuous, but in reality big, complex and fraught with politics?

Higher Ed Sites Have A Huge Advantage: A Captive Audience

A fundamental tenet of information architecture is the belief that if your site isn’t easy to navigate, doesn’t have great content or simply falls flat compared to a competitor, people will abandon it. While I subscribe to this belief, it does have exceptions and higher ed sites are one of those exceptions. Why? Because higher ed sites have a captive audience.

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