Next week I will be traveling to Ft. Worth to speak at the Case IV Conference. In addition to giving a talk on web governance, I will be opening the web track with a new presentation called Why the Web Matters (more than you think).
This is a topic I have been thinking about quite a bit lately. Even though we now are over 20 years in, many higher ed institutions still don’t quite get the importance of the web. College websites have become ubiquitous, and while there has been marginal improvement over the last decade, most .edu websites are still mediocre at best. Unfortunately, too many campuses take their websites for granted. There is great risk in not providing the proper time, attention, resources, and management. As the web continues to grow in importance, this will become an even bigger issue. As more services and instruction move online, the web will become the digital manifestation of your institution.
During the course of my consulting work, I speak with many senior administrators who really don’t know why the web matters. These are all very smart, very talented, well-meaning people. So here’s the scene. You have the opportunity to sit down with the president of your campus to talk about the web. What would you say to convince them that the web matters? What reasoning would you use to demonstrate the web is now mission critical in higher education and requires the appropriate resources?
All of our research at the Futures Company (and everything else I’ve seen) indicates that the web dwarfs everything else as the go-to source of information for prospective students. Institutions put so many resources (time and $) into social media and print, but these are not the primary places prospective students are looking. As we know, the web is challenging, because it serves so many different audiences, but there should be no higher priority for institutional marketing than making sure that prospective students can quickly get to the information they’re looking for. (IMHO!)
Mark, I did this when I was still working at a school. I used to provide monthly analytic reports and let the data speak for itself. I think the most compelling data point was the 250,000 visits per month across 50,000 unique visitors who viewed our website EACH MONTH! Here we were talking about an institution with a student body of 1,200 students reaching an audience 40 times that… EACH MONTH! The stats said it all. Unfortunately for me I was never able to get the full support before I left but within a year after both my assistant and myself leaving (full web staff turnover) they had a web team of four people. Privately I still consider that my victory through data.
Thank you Mark. This should be a ‘must-see’ documentary for all incoming higher ed executives.
I would start with a question: Name one unit or function here at the university that does not rely or depend on the web? Purchasing. Faculty Recruiting. HR. Academics. Research. They all depend upon, or at least use regularly, the web.
Now what resources do we have to ensure that all of these core functions are performed well? How do we ensure quality and efficiency? Chances are the assets used in these areas are disparate, even completely without connection to the university. Is that how we handle things?
Physical facilities has a person in charge. So does academics. So does athletics. So does purchasing. So does HR. Why would web, the group that enables so many core functions, be left to the whims and ideas of someone (or someone’s) who don’t know best practices, workflow or current issues?
The web deserves to be it’s own thing. We, as an industry, have outgrown the marketing, communication and other departments that try to own and control us. We should behave accordingly and be treated accordingly.