I am in a new role as the Web Services Manager in a higher education institution. There are minimal staff to support the entire college’s public web properties. In 2007, the college went through a re-branding process and as part of that process a new look for the website was launched. It was a hurried process and was quite simply just a new paint job on the same car.
Countless reports, surveys and case studies inform us that those considering colleges are using the Internet and college websites as their primary source of information and decision-making tools. Our senior leadership team agrees with the reports and has let me know that it is a priority to develop a website that is competitive, functional and will support the goal of increasing enrolments.
That being said, we’ve also read the news, heard the reports and seen the effects of the economic crunch. I’ve read how numerous colleges and universities in Canada are reporting deficits and possible budget cuts and freezes on spending.
So my question is, can a college or university undertake a major web design project on a budget? The answer isn’t simply ‘yes’ or ‘no’. I think it depends on the circumstances. At our higher education institution, if the circumstances were to remain status quo, I believe we could deliver most of the plans for our redesign project, but with a much slower pace, and in the rapid changing environment of the Web, that could be a critical point of failure. Let say we move forward in our plans which will take one year to execute with our current resources. Six months into the project, the Web landscape changes and we are that much further behind the game.
Between the countless mini-projects and operational tasks our two web producers are usually quite busy and trying to focus on a transformational project would be difficult. One idea I had if we had to work within our means would be to put a hold on all mini-projects and non-urgent request or schedule only one day week to work on these types of requests. Thus freeing up time to focus and develop our new strategy.
I do think a college or university can accomplish great things online, but the required resources are needed first. Our unit has had the same number of staff for over five years, while the demands and expectations have increased – as well as the complexity of our work. Its no long enough to throw up some HTML, images and PDFs to be effective. We need SEO, analytics, social media, video content, interactivity, research, and the list goes on.
Are there post-secondary institutions out there who have successfully executed a redesign project with minimal staff (three or less)? If so, I would really like to hear from you. Please either post a comment or send me an e-mail directly or use my contact form.