University Web Developers

University Web Developers

I'd love to get feedback on how control of your organization's web site is set up. We have a kind of wild west thing going on where Marketing controls some pages, departments control some others and their own pages, and IT makes the decision on everything else. How is look and feel, security, web policies, etc. controlled and enforced at your university?

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The answer to these questions will correlate with the size of your institution. We are a large research university with hundreds of web developers across campus. Our External Affairs office is responsible for the top level pages and after that each department is responsible for their own site. We literally have millions of pages and trying to control these centrally just wouldn't work.
Thanks for your reply. It works a lot like ours so I would expect we're close in size. Do you try to enforce web policies or just put them out as guidelines?
At Cazenovia, I am part of the Communications Department. The public site is largely under my control and my Director, and our Editor, graphic design is handled by our Art Director and Designer who are also part of the Communications Department. We have about 25 web editors across campus in various departments. IT mainly controls our Intranet sites and develops modules for our public site as needed.
Clemson University also has a wild west thing going on, but we've been trying to lasso the rogue pages for over 2 years now. Our Office of Web Services is in Advancement, and we are responsible for our "top level marketing pages" (the gateway pages that serve audiences who influence the US News and World Report voters). We are currently helping our colleges develop their new gateway pages and then the individual departments within the colleges will use our recommended site structure to build and maintain their pages. We deployed a Web CMS that has helped us with branding consistency. Security is controlled by our central IT group. Our Web policies have been created by our office, but they are more like guidelines than policies because we don't really have any governing authority over our Web.
Our Office of Communications and Marketing (where I work) controls the top level website at Georgia Tech. We provide branding resources (templates) to any organization on campus that wants to use them. We have plans for developing a turn-key CMS solution for individual units in the future. We also will do work for organizations at different levels, from a college to a small research unit, for custom solutions but at a cost to them.
At Waterloo (at the moment) Communications and Public Affairs has some control over top-level communications sites, Undergrad Recruitment has control over their own marketing sites, and a committee tries to 'wrangle the cats' as it were with the hundreds of other sites on campus. Each area is responsible for their own thing.

There is a sorta partnership that has kept things moving since I left the job as Manager of Web Communications and went over to the Special Projects Group but there is still a debate between the needs of supporting the creators of content and the needs of those looking for content. In a general sense Waterloo is lead (as in weighted down) by the need to support the creators of content. IT chairs the committees, Communications and marketing interests are trying to carve out control over the 'look' but the campus as a whole still makes decisions on their own sites.

I would say as an institution we still have no idea how 'control' works but all the committee stuff and trying to balance IT with marketing needs just hasn't worked (for last 9 years, it worked in the beginning). The same mistakes tend to repeat themselves due to turn over of web staff and/or senior decision makers. This isn't an entirely bad but I think the problem is that as an institution there is little recognition that a 'web professional' exists and their talents are needed. The real problem isn't about control its about ensuring that a certain level of quality exists. That takes some investment in resources.

I think the question of "who controls your web site" has been such a long standing one for all higher education institutions... the answers I have seen in medium to large institutions requires a Director level position with a strong team that is staffed like a solid web dev/marketing shop.
Hate to dig up an old thread but I figured it was better than starting a new one, since Aaron's situation so closely resembles our current predicament ("wild west" is a perfect description).

I'm currently trying to find information that would support our push to give my dept. (Marketing Communications) the power to enforce some standards (usability, consistency, security, accessibility, etc.) even on sites built by other departments. We currently have one full-time web developer/designer (me) and some student web developers; we're also likely to add a second full-time web person soon.

We're a college within a larger university, but we're also a federally funded, semi-independent institute with our own admissions, alumni relations, development, etc... so we have almost as much to do on the Web as a small university.

Anyone have any studies, data, whatever I could use to help bolster our case that a) there should be some centralization and b) it should be led by Marketing rather than IT?
At UCR our Office of Strategic Communications controls the umbrella website ( We are in charge of developing and maintaining the web brand, we offer our services to the different schools and are trying really hard to make them work with us so we develop their site and once delivered their teams can take over updates and maintaining. We provide flexible templates with the university branding thought our campus CMS for any one in campus; from schools to departments.

Now, within our office, who controls the main site? Too many people. Marketing department, media relations department, personal political agendas, faculty annoying requests and anybody who knows how to send an email to our director complaining about something they don't like. Sorry I had to say it :)
We have "content editors" within each Cabinet-level unit at the College. Those content editors act as gatekeepers and proofreaders for their unit. They review and proofread the content, then send it onto the webmaster e-mail account. The changes are then made by either my assistant or me.

I hold regular meetings (every other month) with the content editors to go over new items, offer some training and get feedback on improving the process.

Eventually, we will most likely allow them to make their own updates through the CMS, but I haven't developed robust enough user permissions within the CMS, yet. Until then, just my assistant and I are responsible for actually committing the updates to the Web site.

We, however, are a small school, so it makes sense to do things that way.

EDIT - Oh, I forgot to mention that my position is housed within the Office of College Advancement (AKA institutional advancement or advertising/marketing).
If you'd asked this question a few years ago, I wonder if a lot of the responses would be "IT." Where the responsibility resides says a lot, I suspect, about the recognition (or lack of it) of the web's importance to the school's mission.

It probably matters how you ask the question. You might ask, "Who controls the home page?" or "Where in the org chart does responsibility for the web mainly sit?" Are you talking about the public-facing web site or a school-wide intranet, and are they integrated with each other at your school or separate? I'm also curious how this responsibility for the "web site" is getting diffused as the concept of web presence grows way beyond the home page and the main web site to many different social media networks.

Aaron's post really made me wonder what the pattern of responses would show. I posted it here on my profile and also on my recently debuted blog.
We have a three-person web services team that supports the departmental webmasters with handling rich media, custom programming, and all other advanced webmastering topics. Most of our departments have one assigned person to manage web content in the CMS. They are given permission to create/edit/delete files within their area.

Look and feel is controlled by our Creative and Print Services division. All design, print or web, goes thru them first for approval. Then it comes to us for the build-out.

Web policies are discussed and set by the Web Implementation Group, a cross-section of web authors from across the campus.



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