Changes Announced Regarding Content Organization and Site Publishing Timeframes
The following e-mail was sent to all Saint Anselm College faculty and staff on April 26, 2010.
If you are like most people, you’d rather do almost anything than read a long e-mail with more information about the new Web site. We know that, but even so, we’re asking you to please read this one. It deals with important changes in how the content on the new Web site is organized and some tweaks in the publishing process. Your willingness to read these updates as we send them will minimize some confusion when we take the new site live, a time when we will be less able to answer your immediate questions or concerns.
Change in How Content is Organized on the New Web Site
One thing we heard repeatedly from our Web firm as well as other firms that had bid on our redesign project, is how the college’s current Web site architecture (site navigation) was very compartmentalized in its organization, meaning that it was organized according to how the college is set up rather than how the average visitor seeks information while navigating the site. For example, in the current site, visitors must visit a particular administrative or academic department to get information and must have some level of knowledge about what that department does in order to know where to go. While this works relatively well for our own faculty and staff, it is quite confusing to prospective students and their families who are less well versed in the vernacular of higher education.
The new Web site’s architecture (how content is organized or housed) has changed and will be driven by best practices and proven strategies in how users interface with our site. In most instances, the content is the same, but it may be located in a different place or in multiple places when the information is of interest to more than one segment of our audience. The one exception to this is academic departments, which will continue to be organized as they are on the current site, but can be found with fewer clicks. A new header of “majors,” which is the word choice used by prospective students, is given more prominence in the new site.
To provide just a few examples—there are many—of how the new site will be organized differently for prospective versus current students:
- Dining Services: A prospective student wants to know what options are available for meal plans and whether or not the food is good. A current student (a different link) wants to know what’s being served today.
- Disability Services: Neither current nor prospective students would necessarily know (without being told) that such information is available under academic advisement. In the new site, there will be a disability services link within both the current and prospective student links.
- Study Abroad: Prospective students want to know if the college offers it, where they can study, and what current students are saying about the experience. Current students want to know what the policies are and how they can apply.
Working with the user experience staff at BarkleyREI, we did extensive usability testing last fall with prospective and current students with the new site architecture and are pleased to report that it tested very well. Content was much easier to find by test participants, and they reported a better Web experience. We also reviewed and sought input from key members of the senior staff before proceeding with the distributed content model.
As with any Web redesign, it will take faculty, staff, and current students time to adjust to the new site architecture. As part of the redesign, we have implemented a more robust search engine and will provide an updated site map for Web visitors.
Changes to Web Site Publishing
As is the case with any new technology, it will also take time for faculty and staff to learn the new content management system (CMS) software and become accustomed to how it differs from the current system and how it is organized under the new distributed content model. Given these two situations, all newly created and edited pages—in the short-term—will utilize a standard workflow that includes the Web Team in the publishing mix. This is not to slow down any content authors, but simply to be sure that content is being directed to the right place and aligned with new templates and graphic standards.
The frequency of Web page publishing within the new CMS will also change, from the current ability to publish updates at any time to publishing changes only occurring within one hour of an author hitting the publish button. Part of this is due to the distributed content model. We will remind authors early and often not to hit the publish button multiple times in the hope that it will move faster. In fact, doing so can have a negative impact on the performance of the Web server.
The Web Team is very confident that we have the right CMS for the new site. It is much easier to use and has greater capabilities. This is the same system that was originally designed to power the Web site of MSNBC and is currently used by more than 100 colleges to power their sites.
We will be publishing a training schedule shortly, and look forward to your participation. If you have any questions, please contact Doug Minor, managing editor/director of Web publishing, at 656-6184 or firstname.lastname@example.org