A redesign project is so much more than churning out a digital product that meets some set of specifications. It’s often a radical re-envisioning of how an organization represents itself on a global medium. Kind of a big deal.
And in any organization, of course, you have people. Could be 5, 50, or 5000. No matter how many there are, they all have a vested interest in that digital representation of themselves. How is it changing? Why is it changing? What about my feelings?
Particularly in the higher ed space, members of a college or university community may have strong opinions (or at the very least, persistent curiosity) about their website and what happens to it.
This presents a challenge. How can you give the community at large some involvement in and awareness of a redesign project without making it too unwieldy?
That’s where a good blog comes into play. A well-written and well-managed blog about your website redesign project (could be a standalone blog or a category of a broader marketing and communications blog) can do a lot to keep your campus community informed, engaged, and educated about the redesign process.
Lately, we’re inspired by our friends at Saint Martin’s University, who have done a great job chronicling their website redesign process with a winning blend of information, inspiration, and personality. But there are lots of great examples from across higher ed. Let’s look at some of them while exploring the value in keeping a redesign blog.
What Makes for a Good Website Redesign Blog?
Make the Case If you feel there’s a need to better educate the community about the rationale for your redesign and really sell it home, your blog can be the place to make that case in plain, personable language, inviting constructive feedback through comments, open forums, web team “office hours,” or other engagement opportunities. The double-edge of this sword is that your blog forces you to remain accountable to your community and project stakeholders. But that’s a good thing!
Complement Face-to-Face Meetings If you are regularly convening a web committee or project team, or perhaps holding open forums with segments of the campus community, an up-to-date project web presence is an important complement to those face-to-face engagements. Your blog can be a great place to not only promote those meetings, but to direct attendees for additional project information and context, including meeting notes, presentations, proposals, and demos.
Report Findings from your Discovery Process Your discovery, research, and planning process will likely yield a lot of valuable insights that you’ll have in hand months before launch. So why not report them back to the community? The N.C. State library did just that, sharing outcomes from persona development and usability testing.
Share Project Details with the Community What are the goals of this project? What’s the schedule? What’s the scope? Who’s on the team? Who’s the vendor? When are they coming to town? What will the site look like?
Lots of questions, and a blog creates a space to provide the answers. For instance:
Identify the People Involved in the Project You don’t want to have your redesign be handed down on high from a nameless, faceless “web team.” Ideally, you want people around campus to know Jen and Tom and whoever else is working on the project. The University of Washington Web Team Blog keeps those names (and their roles) visible in the right sidebar of their blog. Ideally, that list is coupled with lots of on-campus face time.
Educate the Community Not everyone at your institution is a web expert, nor are they supposed to be. But a little education never hurt anyone. The University of Washington does a great job sharing knowledge with their community via their Friday link roundups, where different members of the team share the links and resources they’ve been referencing lately. And when it comes to “news you can use,” University of Michigan-Flint’s how-to’s on topics like taking great study abroad photos or more effective event promotion are super valuable to a broad internal audience.
Stay Up-to-Date We know the adage all too well: the cobbler’s kids have no shoes. But if you’re launching a redesign project blog, make sure you have the time and resources to support it. Define the goal and audience for your blog, and create an editorial calendar that maps to project milestones. Engage multiple voices from your team, if at all possible, both to lend a diversity of perspectives but also to make sure the burden of updates doesn’t fall on just one person.
Thought Leadership for your Team When we partner with colleges and universities on web redesign projects, we are always blown away by the smart people we get to work with. After all, folks in higher ed are used to chewing on big challenges and coming up with creative solutions.
A web redesign blog provides a thought leadership platform for sharing some of that wisdom with the industry. For instance, this blog post by Bethel University content strategist Kelsey Lundberg on enterprise content maintenance is super smart, and others will surely benefit from her insights. The collegial spirit of knowledge-sharing within higher ed is one of the reasons why it’s so much fun working with schools.
Promote Your Blog Widely The best web redesign blog in the world won’t make a lick of difference if no one knows it exists. Promote it internally via email newsletters, portals, social media, flyers, or however your on campus community is wired to learn about what’s happening, and share it externally with industry peers.
Create a Project History The archives of your web redesign blog will serve as a valuable resource both for the short- and long-term, when it comes to reflecting back on past decisions and marking progress over time. That project history may also come in handy if you need to share it with higher-ups for budget allocations or annual reports to the board of trustees.
Turn It Into a Governance Engine Much like the true life of a website redesign project begins the day after launch, your redesign blog has the ability to be a hub of information and community for the life of your website. Use it to spread awareness of web standards, solicit feedback on an institutional style guide, promote upcoming training sessions, share updates about iterative site improvements (like Virginia Commonwealth did more than a year after launch), or explain changes in content policies and guidelines.
Share Awards and Accolades If you win a major award, don’t be shy — shout it out! Your blog is a great place to share the awards and accolades that your newly spiffed up site is sure to win.
Have Some Fun We know it first-hand: web folks like to have fun. So let your personality show. Whether it’s being secure enough to share homepages from years passed (what exactly were we all thinking in 2002?) or posting pics of how you decorated the desk of a colleague returning from paternity leave, let it all hang out.
Learn more tips for a successful website redesign:
+ The One Metric That Proves College Websites Are Worth the Investment
+ Predicting ROI Mid-Project Is Easier Than You Think
+ Proving the Value of Digital Marketing: Best Practices Guide
Originally published at www.oho.com on March 12, 2015.