Update 6/18/14: The site has been recognized with several awards, including a 2014 Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) international Circle of Excellence Bronze Award. Include below is an excerpt from the CASE judges report:
Davidson College’s new website is functional, consistent with their brand identity, responsive, accessible, and developed to current web standards-but that is not the main reason why it is an award-winning site.
Davidson College is winning an award for their efforts to increase efficiencies, consolidate content and implement an effective content and brand strategy for campus.
Their previous content management system encompassed nearly 19,000 pages and occasionally took 90 minutes to publish a page, primarily due to its rushed development in 2006. After a significant planning process, Davidson developed a content strategy that reduced its total website content to 3,500 pages which can be updated instantaneously. Although there are a large number of institutions who have these same capabilities, the judges all agreed that Davidson effectively planned and implemented a strategy and achieved impressive results.
It’s been a while since my last blog post. Needless to say it has been a very busy summer with work and I look forward to the arrival of students and the start of the new academic year.
Since February 2012, I’ve been managing a complete redesign of Davidson College’s Web presence. As part of this work I created a project blog where the campus community can follow our progress at blogs.davidson.edu/webredesign.
The project is a complete redo of Davidson’s Web presence from the homepage down to lower level pages. This includes:
- changes to site governance, workflow, client support, and training
- new information architecture and content strategy
- responsive design approach that accounts for views on desktops, tablets, and mobile phones
- compliance with Web standards and accessibility guidelines
- content syndication and a new taxonomy approach for news
- integration of social media on top-level and lower-level pages, including academic and administrative departments
- complete rewrite of all site content
There is of course a lot more we are tackling, but that covers the big stuff. We are now moving into the content phase for the project, which is by far the most challenging and even more work. The digital staff is really excited about the opportunities the new site will provide to us for conveying the Davidson brand to our target audiences.
More designs are posted on the project blog, including lower level, tablet, and mobile concepts. Blog posts also cover wireframes, information architecture and user experience, site strategy and content themes, and all that we learned during the project’s discovery phase.
Centralize or Decentralize Web Content Management
Who should hold the power when it comes to Web content management on university campuses?
This question can result in a firestorm of opinions, comments, and even emotionally charged outbursts across any campus.
For a university with limited marketing and communications staff resources, there can be many reasons for decentralizing (or centralizing) Web content management.
Read the full blog post on the DPB Communication blog.
In the process of doing some research for a project, I came across some great resources on visual identity, branding, and integrated marketing in higher education.
- Three Perspectives on Branding in Higher Education (University of Colorado – Boulder)
- A President’s Primer on Branding (Stamats, PDF)
Some particularly good brand manuals that cover visual identity, branding, and positioning.
University of North Carolina – Asheville
Brand Manual (PDF)
The City University of New York (CUNY)
Visual Identity & Brand Book (PDF) – includes signage
Although not specifically focused on higher education, I found this PowerPoint particularly well done.
I recently read a UX Magazine article entitled Content Strategy and UX: A Modern Love Story. If you aren’t familiar with content strategy it offers a great introduction.
Content strategy “plans for the creation, delivery, and governance of useful, usable content,” according to Kristina Halvorson, author of Content Strategy for the Web.
When you think about content strategy you need to consider all forms of digital content — text, photos, audio, and video (not to mention audience, messaging, voice, and tone) — and multi-platform — print, Web, mobile, syndicated content, and social media.
Content strategy is also about alignment of offline communication and marketing goals, strategic plans, messaging and brand guidelines, and other institutional priorities with your digital presence. Your offline and online strategy need to work in tandem to meet business goals (your Core Strategy).
Given the often highly distributed nature of website management in higher education, content strategy is much needed and a major challenge to implement (but it can be done with a lot of forethought and commitment from senior leaders and content contributors). It’s easy to do at the front end of a redesign project when you are thinking through strategy, messaging, themes, voice/tone, IA, and user experience, but it typically breaks down when sites are opened up to content contributors more focused on departmental objectives than institutional content goals. Hence the importance of workflow and governance.
The UX Magazine article really drives home the importance of thinking through your site’s content components (the substance and structure of your content) and the people components (workflow and governance).