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.
Over Twitter, Cody Foss requested reviewers for a book about higher ed homepage design titled The eduStyle Guide to Usable Higher-Ed Homepage Design by Stewart Foss, Cody Foss and Andy Foss. I’m all over those kinds of requests and wrote back. Mere minutes later, I had downloaded the PDF and added the review to my long list of to-dos. I didn’t think I’d get to it sooner, but alas, the clouds parted, the gods looked down with smiles and I decimated my to-do list in order to get to it. So let’s get on with it, shall we?
This is the first post in a series about the lessons I’ve learned during my first year as a web geek in higher ed. In 2007, Jeffrey Zeldman proclaimed, “Let there be web divisions.” I can’t agree with him more. He specifically points out that the web shouldn’t be managed by either marketing or IT because neither group fully has the skill set to produce great web experiences. So guess which department at my university manages the website?
A recent problem has prompted me to write about the best way to determine a new site’s width. It may seem like an easy decision to make (it certainly can be), but a few moments of thought may make you reconsider your first choice. There are four steps: Research Information architecture consideration Visual design consideration Final determination
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.
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…
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:
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.
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…
“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?