I have always been an advocate of consistency through University websites, to not only establish a general brand but also because I think users prefer a consistent look when they navigate a website, at least at the main levels. After working for years in this area, I am still facing that same question: how important is it to maintain consistency (generally by using templates) over a university website? I have seen both sides, and the middle ground being done (entire website consistent, only the top levels and homepage consistent, or a mix between the main website and the different divisions).
I am just looking for your opinion and experience about this. If you had to divide and let some sub-sites do things differently, what criteria would you use to do so?
Thank you George.
Yes, I am also talking about consistency of navigation, style of content, etc... Navigation is probably the main one for me (besides "brand" consistency which involves the basics of logos, colors, etc...). The problem with navigation is that you usually maintain consistency by using a template (at least for the placement of navigation). But having divisions wanting to do their own thing usually ends up breaking the layout consistency which most of the time will then break the navigation consistency.
What I have been trying to offer is "levels" of consistency within the university domain, by giving some "play" when websites were further down the main homepage, or were not directly involved with prospective students and recruitment.
I work for a 19,000 student state university (UT Dallas) and this is something you work on all the time on a site this big (100,000+ pages). We have seven schools and they all had a different site look, up until recently. We had one school use our university template for the school and there is another about to launch on our template.
We have a brand website where we try and encourage standards. Every year the enforcement gets better and stronger, but it is still a hodge-podge across the entire university.
My take is that the same type of information needs to always be in the same place, and the visitor needs to know what they're looking at.
But opinion doesn't really matter here - I would do some testing! so you have the data to back up whatever policy you end up setting.