Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Higher Education Websites Are Like The Titanic When We Really Need Speedboats

Managing a university website is a big deal. There are a lot of moving parts and people with various opinions. What is the best way to navigate through all of the noise and get to something that really matters? That's the challenge.

My initial thought, when asked how we might dramatically change the university website, was to start from scratch. Yes, get out a blank sheet of paper and design the site with the end in mind. What are the university goals and how can the website assist in making that happen?

Seriously, it feels like we're driving the Titanic, when speed and agility are really what's needed. Unfortunately, to design a website that is effective, efficient, and light-weight, a lot of the excess has to be let go. A laser focus on what will bring the greatest return should be our guide.

I recognize that this problem is not new. Universities, along with other companies, are looking at how they can maximize the web. I believe it's more than just a marketing billboard, it has function, too.

The greatest challenge, as I see it, is in organizing and unifying the campus toward achieving the same objectives. While everyone may not agree on how we get there, the end result should be the same. Unfortunately, due to the nature of the institution, everyone has a slightly different agenda. Some areas only care about highlighting their department, but that can't work for everyone. This is where decisions have to be made. As I see it today, you can't please everyone all of the time.

How Do We Fix It?

So, how do we move forward? As I regroup and think about where we go from here, I believe the answer lies in identifying the goals of the institution and then developing a plan to align the web to deliver on those goals. It means that tough decisions will have to be made and it won't always go over well. However, if we keep our goals at the forefront of our effort, we can rest assured that we're heading in the right direction.

Second, we need to invest more time in a governance model. To me, this means clearly identifying responsibilities, processes, and procedures, so that everyone knows how this system is going to work. Again, this concept is not exactly new as information technology departments have been governed in one way, shape, or form for years. However, I would like to continue exploring the details of a web governance model for higher education.

Yes, if you've been following along lately, you already know that I have recently switched my doctoral research project to focus on a web governance model for higher ed. This means that I'll be spending more time exploring, researching, and writing about this topic in effort to help us resolve this giant challenge and maximize on our assets.

What Has Been Your Experience?

I would love to begin a dialog with other university web professionals on what they're doing in this area. What are the challenges that you're facing? What are you doing? What's worked? What hasn't? In the end, know that my research project will seek to answer some of those very questions.

If you're interested, please leave a comment below and let's get this conversation rolling.


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Damond L. Nollan, M.B.A.

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