seen + learned

Higher education: the destination site is not dead

Posted: Tuesday, November 17, 2009 | Posted by Tania Schlatter | Labels: , ,

The pace and rate of technological change is dizzying. We are seeing and hearing many organizations become disoriented. In higher education as with any organization, when there are funds there is a tendency to want the latest and coolest. The possibilities available - cheap and fast streaming video, presentation design "skins" that change on the fly, the ability to aggregate and display content from a wide variety of sources - are tempting.

Critical thinking must be present in the higher education site redesign process. Like the dessert table at a great buffet, it is easy to over do it, and forget about providing the nutrients your body (like your site visitors) need.

Bottom line - if you are a site for a department at a college or university, your site visitors need facts. They need to know what the department is. They need to know how they might engage with you and for what. They need to know who is in charge of what and who to contact for what. They need to know how your department or organization may be connected to others or the university as a whole. Prospective and current students and their parents get a huge amount of their information from the internet. They are relying on your institution or department's site for the details they need. There are many, many sites that provide inspiration on every topic imaginable. Chances are, if you have a current or potential student on your site, or even a donor, they have been to those sites and are already inspired. They are on your site to move forward and take action - to go beyond inspiration and act.

Organizations must ask themselves - are they in the media business? If not, how cool and inspiring is your cutting edge site going to be in a few months when the content needs updating? How impressive will it be when news feeds pull in content that isn't what your audience is looking for or have already seen somewhere else?

Higher education sites are destinations. Ideally, they do both - inspire the visitor by reassuring them that they are in the right place for their interests (video could really help here), and help them engage. This takes more facts than flash, more veggies than dessert, smelling salts and a heavy dose of restraint (also known as user research).


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