Any G&G members happen to work as webmasters in higher education?
Any G&G members happen to work as webmasters in higher education?
I work for a local community college.
I share webmaster duties for a portion of our university site (the main library). However, our web server is only capable of static HTML. No PHP, no CMS, much frustration.
I work in IT at Henry Ford Community College in Dearborn, MI. Web administration, design and development is part of what I do here.
Awesome! Glad to know you guys are out there :)
I'm a web developer at the University of Cincinnati's College of Education, Criminal Justice and Human Services.
We're in the process of a major re-organization/re-design, and I kinda just wanted to reach out and see if anyone else was in a similar position and has dealt with some of the unique parts of working on the web for Higher Ed.
Yeah, I'm in the middle of a redesign, too. Going from www.svcc.edu to staging.svcc.edu (in process).
I've done quite a bit of work with web accessibility (Section 508, WGAC, etc.), if I can't answer questions, I should be able to refer you to someone who can.
Wow. Yea, that's a big jump! Probably about as big of a jump as we'll be making from http://www.cech.uc.edu to our new design (which I cannot post yet... but will as soon as I can).
Usability is one of the major things that we're focussing on in the new design. As well as putting a lot of work into audience-driven sections (prospective students, current students, faculty, alumni/contributors, etc etc). I think that's probably the biggest challenge in higher ed web design: the fact that you have four target demographics that are so drastically different. It's been a struggle for me from an information architectural standpoint to try to build a cohesive website that meets all of their individual needs without loosing focus on our websites primary goal: recruiting new students. It's like juggling knives that have somehow been lit on fire which also happen to have been dipped in poison. Death by any number of ways! haha!
Yeah, you're right on. Multiple, large groups with different needs--usually leads to complex home pages and navigation, and, as a result, frustrated users.
You can see my approach--keep the home page simple and create almost sub-sites for different audiences (I'm desperately trying to get faculty/staff stuff moved to our intranet). The gray bar at the top will be my complex navigation. I'm leaving this in because it makes sense to faculty/staff who know more exactly what page to go to.
I also think that, by color-coding the sections (potential, current, etc.), it provides distinction as well as cohesiveness. I can keep the same layout, but you know when you've crossed the boundary. That's been my philosophy, anyway. I'd be interested to hear your take and look forward to seeing your design!
2 things jumped out to me.....
The first is the idea of color coding. I like it if it's done right. If the design looks elegant jumping from one color to another it can be good. If it's just the menu items, as I've seen before, it's bad design.
The other is a simple user experience. How can people get what they need in a minimal number of clicks. My old college website is a pain to find things on. It was then and still is. How do you solve the problem of making the stuff people want to find just a couple clicks away with more than one demographic? it's a tough question. Could one way be context sensitive menus? Give them an up front choice of what demographic their in and then put what that demographic wants up front?
Just a few ideas. This is the fun stuff I like to figure out. :)
Good points. Typically for higher education websites, the primary audience is the prospective student. Unfortunately, of the main demographics, prospective students are the only ones that tend to not self-identify. Faculty, current students and alumni all have no problems self-identifying. So that ads a level of complication to the problem because you have to present the data in such a way that the prospective students don't need to self-identify, but everyone else can easily. The problem with that is alienation. If everyone is self-identifying except the prospective students, then they are the "out" when in actuality, they're the primary audience! Tell ya what--once I have it figured out, I'll write a book and share the millions :-\
From what I've seen, the needs of churches and higher ed can be very similar. Both can have two very different audiences for web sites. There is the public facing website, primarily geared toward attraction, and a a more inward facing presence to provide resources and community. I have found that I need to work hard to consider the real needs of these different applications.
In education, the outward face attracts a prospective student. Pretty it up any way you want, that's a customer. That thinking can be a trap with church websites. Is the person just a prospective customer? Are we selling something? We've had a few tough conversations here in the forums about that topic, and I'm not really trying to stir up another one. All I'm saying is that I need to always be looking beyond mere advertising when considering elements of a church website.
We also talk a lot about creating community for church members. The more that Facebook grows, the more I wonder if we're wasting effort trying to make a new community instead of building up one that exists. Even before I started thinking about community sites, I've always thought that our inward facing websites should be resource centers for our members. On the other hand, I got caught up in trying to build a community website at work, and had to realize that there is absolutely no interest in this at my institution.
I guess it's a reminder that despite the similarities, these are two very different environments for me, and I need to be mindful of that.
I think most large websites have two audiences, though. It's certainly not unique to church & higher ed. Most companies have intranets and company resources. Some companies even have many "internal" websites. Circuit City, for example, had at least two work order/tracking systems just for internal use. They were run by different sets of people in different parts of the country on different domain names. Plus you had all the HR stuff, internal resources, etc etc. The list goes on and on. Segmentation at that level is almost easy. It's just a matter of community education (which, as webmasters, we're all doing all the time... right?).
The trouble is when you need to leverage your internal sites as part of your marketing. So, say you have a bunch of cool resources for current students. You want that to be public facing because, as we know, prospective students don't self-identify very readily. So you want them not to think of themselves as "potential" students but as "if I were a student." It's a subtle difference, but the fact is, the target demographic for undergraduate admissions is very good putting themselves in another person's shoes. So they are looking at your website not as a prospective student, but are, rather, imagining your site as though they were a student (this curve drops off in time if they begin to seriously consider your institution... at that point, the traditional "prospective student" tools are needed so they can find classes, apply, register, yada yada yada).
Totally off topic, but Micah, check out: http://www.mysouthland.org/ I think that is a prime example of a community website being built around a church. Interestingly enough, it is a COMMUNITY wbesite and not a website for the church community exclusively (though, of course, it's inescapably a church run website).
Anyway... sorry for rambling. I'm just processing a lot of this myself, and sitting down to type it out helps me. :)