Website Redesign Done Right

During my talks at the recent eduWeb Digital Summit in Chicago a common theme was website redesign.  I am always amazed at the number of campuses in the process of redesigning their sites. At eduWeb over half the people I talked with were in redesign mode. Many lamented that the last redesign hadn’t yet been fully implemented and they were already starting on the next redesign. This madness has to stop. Redesign projects are often a waste of time and money, and  often done for the wrong reason.   (Yes, I am a firm believer in the idea of realign instead of redesign.) If you are interested in my approach to web redesign, come join me for a webinar I am  teaching for the Canadian Marketing Association on September 17 – Website Redesign Done Right – The First Time. Description Redesigning your website can be a daunting proposition. It is a huge investment in time and money and something that you will live with for years to come. While there is a tremendous amount of work involved, the reward is a new site that will engage your audience and meet your business objectives – if done correctly. A properly executed redesign project first begins with understanding when and why to redesign your site. Answering both the “when” and “why” of redesign offers the perfect opportunity to examine your web strategy’s role within your overall organizational strategy, and how to incorporate both to build a sustainable site. This webinar will walk you through the entire web redesign process, from research and planning to launch and post-launch analysis. Secondly, redesign requires understanding...

Customer Service and the WWW

This week I am moving into a new office space. For the record, this will be my 12th office in the 28 years I have worked at UB. While packing my files I came across the program for the 1997 AECT (Association for Educational Communications and Technology) Conference. At this conference I did one of my first presentations on the web called “Customer Service and the WWW”. Remember when we used the term WWW? The primary takeaway from this presentation was how the web could be used to improve customer service. Thinking about the web in a customer service paradigm has been lost in recent years. While I understand the focus on marketing, customer service still matters. In fact in this age of social media, customer service and customer satisfaction matter even more. I spent a good portion of this talk on why treating students as “customers” with a focus on customer service is important to higher education. Many people in academia bristle at this notion because this is how businesses think and higher ed is not a business. But I disagree. We have an obligation to provide quality service. Marketing, branding, and messaging should never get in the way of the user experience and quality service. And quality service is one of the best ways to market your...

Am I Turning into a Luddite!

How complicated should a kitchen faucet be? That is the question I have asked myself twice in the last two months. We had our kitchen remodeled a year ago and we allowed my daughter to decide what faucet we should buy. To no one’s surprise, she choose the Moen MotionSense which is one of those fancy, hands free models. And while this sounds like a great idea, there is one problem. It has broken twice in the last two months. And as anyone who has experienced this knows, not having a working kitchen faucet is no fun. As part of the remodeling project we bought all new appliances and to be perfectly honest, we aren’t real happy with any of them. The computerized water and ice dispenser in the refrigerator stopped working after 4 months and it took 6 months before we had a fully operational refrigerator again. (That’s a story for another time.) And the new washer and dryer are so complicated I did something I never do. I bought the extended warranty. A good friend of mine works at an appliance store and he told me that I will probably have issues at some point, and repair costs will be very expensive. Call me crazy, but at the end of the day I just want something that works. Yes, turning on a faucet without touching it is cool. That is until you have to go a couple of weeks without a functioning faucet. Have we reached the point where technology has crossed the line and is now making things more complicated than needed and basic functionality is...
Aarhus 2010 – A Recap of the J.Boye Conference

Aarhus 2010 – A Recap of the J.Boye Conference

Last week I was in Aarhus Denmark for the J Boye Conference and it was everything I expected and more. For me this conference is a perfect compliment to the conferences I attend that focus  exclusively on higher education. Here are my highlights and key takeaways: Eric Karjaluoto gave the keynote on day one on how to “Speak Human” which was based on the ideas in his book of the same name.  I’ve seen him before and he is an excellent speaker because he is an excellent story teller.  I see a direct relationship between his book and “The Cluetrain Manifesto”, my favorite book on the web.  While Eric’s book focuses on how “small businesses can beat the big guys”, the Cluetrain focuses on the implications of the web in general and the social web in particular for large organizations. Eric’s keynote can be summed up in one tweetable moment – Being human is more important than being professional Bebo White’s keynote on day two was very intriguing.  For those of you who don’t know him, he first became involved with the web while on sabbatical at CERN in 1989 and upon his return to Stanford was part of the team that established the first American web site at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory (the fifth site in the world).  Bebo spoke on the “Emergence of Web Science”.  It was very reminiscent of the idea behind UB’s former School of Informatics and similar to my ideas about the holistic web.  The best quote  from Bebo’s talk was Where we are right now with the web is where we were...

The Player requires Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.5 or later

Our campus is in the process of implementing a new student system.  After a lengthy assessment, we selected PeopleSoft and we are now in the early stages of implementation.  During the assessment, I was a vocal advocate for selecting a product that was both usable and accessible. This week I was sent the online training materials to familiarize myself with PeopleSoft. I’ve been using Chrome as my browser the last couple of weeks and when I opened up the link to the training materials, I got the following message: “The Player requires Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.5 or later.” I tried to open the site using Firefox, Opera and Safari, and got the same message. (Yes, It works fine in IE.)  I have a very bad feeling about this. I hope this isn’t a sign of things to come with our student system. If anyone of you have experience with PeopleSoft, I’d love to hear from you regarding how valid their code is.  I sure hope that people won’t be forced to use...

Why Do Higher Ed Websites Continue to Have Serious Usability Issues ?

In addition to the three presentations I did at the Innovative Educators conference last week, I did a session critiquing several sites volunteered by attendees. While these reviews focused on all aspects of what goes into a great site, usability was what everyone was most interested in. It amazes me that many higher ed sites continue to have serious usability issues. For example, one site we reviewed prevented someone using Firefox from completing the admissions application. Opening the “Apply Now” link resulted in an error message saying “WARNING! Unsupported Browser!” I also shared an example from my school where the housing request form was recently made available online. Here is some of the text from the instructions: System Requirements : You MUST ONLY use IE v 6.0+. You cannot use a Mac. Incompatible browsers may prevent some pages from being displayed. Do not use Firefox. I guess we don’t want any Mac users or Firefox users living on campus! I wish these were isolated cases, but the majority of higher ed sites I visit have usability issues. So my questions for the group is why does higher ed continue to struggle with usability? I have my own thoughts, but I would love to hear...