Tension Between Marketing and Usability: Part 1

Nick Denardis of EDU Checkup critiqued the University of Denver’s redesign and gave it a 94%. Pretty good. He liked the strong visual impact of the homepage, that content was geared toward addressing student needs and that the underlying code was done with SEO and accessibility in mind. What Nick didn’t know, couldn’t know, was the drama and politics that culminated in this particular design. One aspect of this hidden world is what I’d like to discuss today- the tension between the marketing and usability camps. While I’d like to think that both can (should) co-exist to support one another, its…

On Apple & Adobe Flash

There’s lots being said about Apple, Adobe and Flash support. This is the 6,342,213th opinion on the matter, but the first from me. First off, what’s the big deal? Well, Adobe and Adobe/Flash supporters are up in arms about Apple’s increasing discrediting/dislike/disbarring of Flash on the Iphone and Ipad (no, I don’t capitalize iPhone and iPad according to Apple marketing- get used to it). They seem to think Apple owes its customers Flash support since so many websites out there power their video and whatever else with Flash. Apple says “Use open standards like H.264, HTML 5, etc.” The Flash…

Flickr for Photo Workflow

Many higher ed institutions use Flickr to share photos with their constituents. We launched DU’s Flickr site this summer. We also set up an “internal” Flickr account for our overworked photographer Wayne. It was meant to cut down on his daily grunt work and, I’m happy to report, it has. Here are some of the efficiencies it has garnered for him since its inception: Fewer in-person client reviews: Wayne is hired by various departments for photo shoots. After a gig, he used to schedule an in-person meeting with his client to review and choose the final photos that the client…

Health Care Bill(s) & (Many) Higher Ed Websites

Some random connections: Similar in that the “solutions” don’t account for the real audience that matters: patients / students Similar in that those with ultimate decision making authority are swayed too much by lobbyists and insiders Similar in that those in positions of power tend to be too insular in their thinking and don’t go out of their way to listen to their constituents Similar in that opponents to change, regardless of whether it’s positive or negative change, use fear tactics as a mechanism to stop it (death panels / uncontrolled blog commenting) The end product is, at best, a…

Entropy and the Web

Websites want to be chaotic. They don’t like order, hierarchy, or staying on brand. Your efforts to tame it or control it are largely futile. The best you can do is point it in the right direction and then keep on eye on it. Turn your head for just a minute and suffer the consequences: broken links, inconsistent messages, oddball layouts, one time exceptions, and so on. We usually clammer for more people, more money and more tools as salvation. They’re not. Those things will solve today’s problems, but new ones will arrive tomorrow. No set of widgets, plug-ins or third…

Use link titles as a check on your architecture decisions

Recently at work, there was a discussion about link titles, their utility, when to use them, when not to and so forth. Link titles are those attributes you insert into a link tag that helps set expectations for users of where a link will take them. Conceptually, they’re easy to understand and rationalize. The hard part is actually writing them. I’m certainly guilty of writing banal descriptions that would make you wonder why I included one at all. But since no one ever calls you on them, it’s easy to let them slide. But over the years, I’ve come to…

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…

Time For Change

I haven’t posted for months. Not because I don’t want to, I do. The dearth of updates stems from an ever growing perception that what I write is hypocritical. By virtue of this site, I claim to have knowledge and insight into matters of strategy, IA and design, but in the 18 months I’ve spent at my university (on top of a decade’s worth of web experience), I have nothing of note to support the claims I’ve made here. The strategies, architecture and design ideas that I’ve put forth haven’t manifested themselves in the real world. I’m a believer that execution…

The Trouble With Titles

I recently took steps to get out of my current, part-time MBA program and into the executive version. To get some questions about the switch answered, I met with a program rep. One of the topics she wanted to cover was whether I met the minimum requirement of 10 years work experience. Having been in the web game for 12 years, I was a shoe-in. But she informed me that the requirement came with a caveat- the 10 years should show growth in management and/or increasing responsibility. Further, one way the school gauges an applicant’s worthiness is by their work…

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…

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