University Web Developers

University Web Developers

I'm interested in gathering new and emerging strategies in re-launching edu sites. In particular...

For internal audiences (faculty and staff primarily) how have your managed expectations and ensured a smooth transition? Blogging the redesign process, Web committees, launch parties, private demos for curmudgeons, robust training plans, style guides, etc. are just some of the tools we have found successful.

For your external audiences, ecard announcements, postcards, tchotchkes, promotions in enewsletters, calls to action in print, press releases, etc. have all had a place in our ongoing promotion plan. Add to that Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Digg, etc. and so on.

Would love to gather strategies you've found successful in the higher ed space.

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Your use of the term relaunch begs a question... are you still doing monolithic redesigns? Why not adopt an iterative approach to your sites? Make incremental changes to add value over time without spending the time and resources to process and do QA on your entire site?
Brian -

Thanks for your feedback.

Yes, I think iterative redesign is certainly the most strategic approach. This model works best with institutions who are staffed in-house with a team of Web strategist, content, design, and development professionals.

In the case of many of our clients, we are helping them to convert from a static site that only someone with HTML knowledge could edit into a CMS template system, and overhauling their architecture to be more externally focused. Once this groundwork is laid, we encourage them to continually iterate and roll out better and better content, features and functionality.

So, in this context, I think the "monolithic redesign" still has a practical place in the world of higher ed.
Large scale redesigns can drastically inconvenience the end user. Wouldn't it be more reasonable to isolate the conversion from HTML to a CMS as a separate project from redesigning the site? We've had many such conversions made at our institution, and the webmasters in these cases (including our own) handled the main pieces of the Web presence as separate "moving parts":

1) Content / Information Architecture
2) Visual design and standards compliance (e.g. CSS and XHTML)
3) The underlying content management system
4) Interactive applications

I still stand by my assertion that undertaking a retooling of any one of these aspects as worthy of a dedicated project or multiple staged projects.

Why not just get their content into the CMS first before trying to redesign the IA? With a CMS comes likely changes to Web governance and new processes that would more than likely provide a strong foundation for redoing their architecture.

Of course, if you are a consultant rather than institutional Web staff, I can see where you'd be constrained by existing contracts or deliverables.
Sometimes a web site's content and IA are so bad that you don't want to save it...any of it. :-) We're "redesigning" our site, and no legacy content or IA are coming to the new site.

Each institution and its web staff may have a different approach. Glad to hear yours worked for you. I'll let you know how ours works for us. :-)

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