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 practical. The sheer workload would jeopardize the distribution of time sensitive information. Plus, no content person wants to work in a sweat shop environment were quality takes a backseat to simply getting the work out. And beyond even those practical concerns, will a content person be as passionate about every subject that comes across their desk as the people who live and breathe it?For those reasons, content ought to be unleashed. Continue reading “There’s A Happy Medium Between Centralization & Decentralization”

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. Continue reading “Marketing ≠ Visitor Experience”

Review: The eduStyle Guide to Usable Higher-Ed Homepage Design

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? Continue reading “Review: The eduStyle Guide to Usable Higher-Ed Homepage Design”

Lessons Learned: Let There Be Web Divisions

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? Continue reading “Lessons Learned: Let There Be Web Divisions”

4 Steps to Determine the Optimal Page Width for New Sites

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:

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. Continue reading “The 1-to-1 Relationship”

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 to the information, discussions and pressures of those above me who are making these kinds of decisions. Nonetheless, I’ve been in the web world for a long time, worn many hats, worked in diverse environments and have dealt with a wide ranging set of clients. So I feel I can make educated guesses about such things and, let’s face it, I’m not shy about pontificating my views.

Continue reading “CMS- Proprietary or Open Source?”

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. Continue reading “What Higher Ed Sites Could Learn From Barack Obama”

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 draining to steer the website toward a new course — one that, to me, is a slam dunk generally speaking. That said, I wanted to outline the steps I saw that needed to be accomplished when I joined the team in order to turn criticism into praise. It’s a short list and could use more detail, but here are the major milestones. Continue reading “How To Turn Around A Problematic Site”