University Web Developers

University Web Developers

Hi Everyone,


I posted this a few weeks ago on the uwwebd mailing list but I was hoping to get some more responses here. I've been asked to put together a proposal for a central web team. As part of this they would like some documentation on best practices at other universities.

Our school has about 30,000 students, so I'm particularly interested in larger, decentralized institutions but any responses will be helpful.


  • How is the team structured at your University?
  • Who do you report to? (Communications, IT etc.)
  • How many people are on the team? What are their roles?
  • How do you connect with IT (or Communications if you are in IT)?
  • What is your team responsible for? Do you only handle the central sites or do you offer services to other departments?
  • In a decentralized environment, how do you work with web people in outlying units?
  • If you have a CMS, who is responsible for leading CMS implementation? Is this part of your team?
  • How well does your team work? What would you want to change (if you could)?
  • Do you have any thoughts on "best practices" for central web teams?

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Let me try to help fuel this thread. :-)


1) We are "Online Marketing" we consist of director, writers, head editors, editors, and developers

2) We report to University Marketing

3) 5+ (Student workers are hired as needed); you can see roles above

4) Weekly meetings with IT to address server maintenance, large projects, etc.

5) At the moment we handle the edits for the entire public website

6) Previously we have allowed faculty/staff to register for web editing training that would allow them access to their website; from training we would offer a weekly "support" sessions in a classroom as well as a ticket system to handle urgent issues

7) Our director, developer, and project managers from IT were involved in the implementation

8) Our team works great in both models (centralized and decentralized); pros and cons for both models

9) One method of communication for a central web team (e.g. we have one group email to handle incoming edits that are filtered out to our ticket system and then assigned to an editor/writer as needed)

Ooooooh. These are always a good time.

  1. Me (Director of Web Marketing) and a student
  2. Web Marketing > Assoc. VP of Marketing and Communication > VP of University Advancement > President
  3. See #1. I do basically everything with respect to maintenance activities. Student picks up the lightweight stuff: updating links, training, corrections (but starting to teach her more involved stuff)
  4. Office started in IT, moved to Marketing during institutional redesign. Maintain good personal relationships with many folks over there (try to go to lunch once a week) - helps grease the wheels IMMENSELY.
  5. CMS administration, search server administration, analytics, design, development, accessibility, social media. Offices and departments are generally responsible for their own sites (for now), but we play a central support role.
  6. Each college has a dedicated "instructional support consultant" that handles tech needs (everything from setting up projectors to the web). offices come straight to us, though anyone is welcome to engage us directly currently.
  7. Me. I am the Alpha and the Omega. If I dropped dead tomorrow, the school would be in a world of hurt. I'm dead serious, I'm the only person that knows the CMS inside and out.
  8. I'm a machine. I really, really want a content strategist on staff though to make the stuff on our site worth looking at.
  9. Do it once, do it right.

Believe me, our situation is far from ideal, and I'm recommending a number of changes for 2011. And compared to you, we're small (~7200 students). The fact that I am the lynchpin for our entire CMS is insane and a terrible liability. Here's my recommendations, in order of importance:

  • Director - This person should be able to do everything. That's insane, but the fewer people you have, the more important this person is, and the better they have to be. Plus this person has to be good enough to coordinate and plan for everyone else. This person is the Army of One that many schools have.
  • Content Strategist - Somebody has to make the stuff on your site worth coming for. THAT'S WHY THEY ARE THERE IN THE FIRST PLACE. Plus, the idea of decentralized web maintenance is ridiculous. Almost no departments are fit to maintain their own sites. The "content experts" in offices are rarely experts at making content. These people would also be involved with usability testing, writing, training, and anything else dealing with making words rock. Magazines and newspapers and TV shows all have an editor-in-chief type role, why don't our websites?
  • Designer - Someone for general design, layout, graphic stuff, UI/UX. If they know Flash, bonus (I hate Flash, but you're bound to run in to the need). For example, I'm good at knowing something about everything, but the fact of the matter is that I am not an artist. I SUCK at good, original art of any kind, and I'm not gonna wake up one day and suddenly be good at it. Photoshop, Illustrator, Wacom tablets: these should be their weapons of choice. They should also know basic HTML/CSS principles too.
  • Media Producer - This person should have skills shooting and editing video, producing audio, doing integrated media work, and they could also be a Flash person. On the high end, if they can get into AR type stuff too, that's pretty killer. We've had reasonable success with an intern in PR serving this role, but needs are high enough that we could have a team of 2-3 full time people busy constantly just shooting and editing video. This is the person who will help stop departments from putting videos on their sites shot on a cell phone.
  • Developer - This one is iffy, because the logistics of web vs. marketing vs. IT may mean that these responsibilities simply fall into someone else's realm. in our case, however, this person would play a central role in helping with tool development and with improving interactions between our portal and CMS (our CMS is open source, which also makes it easier to play with).
  • Support Tech - This is a role anyone can and should do, but if you can get someone dedicated (thanks to need or just available money), go for it. It never hurts to have a common face for someone to interact with when they have needs.
  • Social Media Coordinator - If you have money to afford a dedicated social media person, go you. Let students, interns, marketing, or pretty much anyone but the developer handle this stuff otherwise. The money is WAY BETTER spent elsewhere frankly.

1) Decentralized.  There are staff in IT and Marketing and Admissions who focus primarily on Web stuff.  Proposed merger dropped on concerns of "other duties" and no funds to backfill those duties after primary responsibility transfers.

2) See above.

3) Manager (IT support), Programmer, Student programmers/CMS migrators/minions (IT), Writer/editor, Admissions e-recruitment.

4) Regularly attend staff meetings in Communication.   First part of that meeting is dedicated to Web issues.  More recently, created a cross-unit Web team to meet less frequently but hopefully more meaningfully.

5) We're not chargeback, so we serve as much as possible across the entire site.

6) We support the outlying units, which in our case is more often the Secretary doing "other duties as assigned"

7) CMS lead is in IT, but work with Marketing Communications to coordinate efforts.

8) Would like to centralize team.

9) Be a strategic partner.


1. We are Web Communications

2. We report to the Executive Director, Strategic Communications

3. We have a full-time director that does just about everything now. We have two students that handle daily updates and small projects. And we have been approved to hire a Web Designer at the start of 2011.

4. We connect with IT as projects dictate. IT has a Web Developer on staff that manages the server and major applications. IT also has a SharePoint expert that I work closely with for the intranet. We used to have monthly project meetings, but those went away, seen as a waste of time.

5. Web Communications is responsible for all electronic communications projects, including the public sites, intranet, mass email, and social media

6. We work with outlying units on a project basis. Otherwise, I sit on the Web Planning group for the University that guides training opportunities for university-wide web staff and tackles issues facing the University web presence.

7. I am the CMS at this point, but we are looking to move into a system in the next couple years. Our intranet is moving to SharePoint, which I am leading.

8. Staffing is our biggest issue. We have too many projects to handle within the current team. A new staff member will help, but our goal is to get in front of the web presence strategically, which is difficult to do when mired in projects.

9. I'm a fan of central web teams as guides. They should monitor for consistency and help departments (that have their own staff) understand the best ways to build and manage their sites to benefit the campus community as a whole.


I hope this helps. Let me know if you want any more detail.



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