University Web Developers

University Web Developers

I was just curious what other people's experience has been with using subdomains for different departments/schools instead of regular subfolders (which is what we currently use). For example:

www.yourschool.edu/department

vs.

department.yourschool.edu

From a usability perspective, is one or the other more natural to your site visitors?

From a technical perspective, has using a subdomain caused any problems with linking, cross-domain scripting, etc.?

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My preference has always been department.yourschool.edu.
We do not allow subdomains to be used by our departments/colleges/units. Our main reason was because prior to a site redesign several years ago our departments all appeared to have a separate identity - some completely unrecognizable as part of Southeastern. We worked very hard to create a unified, consistent presence for our Web site and with the support of our administration decided that all Southeastern Web sites should be a subfolder under our main www.selu.edu url. From a web management perspective this makes it much easier to keep up with as well since we don't have to keep track of 20 to 30 different subdomains. We received a little resistance at first because we had to actually remove a few subdomains but overall everyone was supportive of the decision.
I have found telling someone go to: department.yourschool.edu they will type in www.department.yourschool.edu . Yes, you could setup forwarders I know. I find subfolders relieve this issue.
I work at the college level of a university and at my level, we mainly use subdomains. Subdomains seem to be more intuitive and easier for marketing. For example, printed materials look better with clean URLs.
We do a lot of 'short urls' or redirects for marketing purposes. Many of our offices and departments have redirects like www.selu.edu/housing, www.selu.edu/admissions, etc.

We do the same, w/o the www. (callutheran.edu/shortcut)

My university uses subfolders. For the longest time I thought we were just "behind the times,"but the points Amber L makes are very reasonable. Thank you for that point of view!
We do mostly subdomains for the larger depts and colleges, but then subfolders for the smaller depts in those colleges. It seems to show that one is a part of the larger.
ex. engineeringcollege.school.edu/civil
That is how I prefer it, but honestly we have some that do both. If they want a subdomain we'll do it.
We use subfolders for sites housed on the main server and subdomains for those house on other servers. I actually blogged about this recently at http://blog.case.edu/webdev/2008/10/04/subdomain.html as people kept asking me why they couldn't have a subdomain and I had to keep explaining that it wouldn't really give them an advantage.
While I appreciate what you are saying, Heidi, about subdomains having little impact on marketing,
I'll have to confess that I'm not in agreement. It does have an impact on perception, and marketing
is very much about perception. I have been involved with many, many startup things where we picked
a name just so it worked as a URL. There is a bit of a "vanity license plate" effect, where even if you think
it doesn't matter, it matters to the person that has it, too. That said, one could ask who really needs to have a "front door" site within a university "enterprise" for which a domain name gets used. The larger the university, the more sense it makes, that's also an observation I would make.

I would only go to the 3 level, the service.school.edu, that's the limit of where it makes sense. I have
seen folks try to go for more levels, typically in governmental sites (or edu in the UK), and after 3 it
just feels totally bureaucratic.

At my school, we do hand out these 3rd level names upon request. If there is some issue with
the appropriateness of the names or we think some name should be reserved, then a discussion
ensues.
Dirk,
I think I get your point. The people at Case who request subdomains certainly do have the perception that it helps, but from an enduser point what I've read seems to indicate it doesn't make much difference. It may also be easier to manage on a smaller site like WCU. For Case with 347,000 pages indexed on Google (not counting internal pages) limiting subdomains to sites housed on other servers helps us from both an administrative and navigational standpoint.
Thanks Heidi for sharing your information. I often have to explain 'why' people cannot have subdomains at our University and your blog explains the reasons perfectly. Great job.

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