in Digital Web

Redesign: How soon do you turn over the keys?

One of the things we grappled with during my first web redesign several ago was figuring out how soon to turn over control of managing their own pages to the various constituents on campus. For some folks, this isn’t a consideration. Either the site approval authority mirrors that of the institutional checks and balances or there is some other method in place. But what about those times when you have to do it from scratch?

That’s when, friends, it can be an adventure.

First off, let’s consider how you even get to this point. In the past reference and at present, the situation is dictated by the college or university switching from a static HTML site done in Dreamweaver to a dynamic site managed via a content management system (CMS). The old way, usually meant (for me, anyway) that people would send their changes down to the PR office and I would make them or discuss them with them, if there were issues. But with a CMS? It’s all up to them.

Depending on your CMS, this can be an easy problem to fix or a potential disaster. The first time I dealt with it, it ended up figuring itself out. Our site launch deadline ended up being a little earlier than I anticipated and so, we ended up having to scramble to figure out how to address the issues with the new site. What I did there, was bring people in slowly. People who need changes to existing content and I would literally meet with them, show them how to make their modifications and go from there. It ended up being the easier way to do it, because I found that group trainings weren’t as efficient as I’d have liked. Each individual person not only came to the table with their own technology abilities or limitations, but each person’s use of the CMS would be different, depending on what area of the site they were using and where.

So while I did conduct group training, I would use those trainings as gateways to learning how to use the CMS period and would implore people to setup subsequent training with me to learn how to configure their specific area’s pages.

My present situation is a bit different, as there is already a defined process in place. The real question is, whether or not we’re going to let the web mirror our own institutional quirks or not. It’ll be a lot easier for me, than it was in the role I cited earlier, because the individual areas are already responsible for providing content and this isn’t an exercise in trying to “sell” them on the reasons they need to use the web effectively or to replace old content as it’s been in other circumstances.

I think the bottom line is, understanding that once you give up control of the day-to-day input of content into the site, you’re not going to get it back without a fight. So it’s important not just to understand who’ll be approving content up the ranks, but ensuring that people throughout the institution are very familiar with institutional style guides and requirements for how web content is able to be published. Nothing is worse than having to explain to folks for an hour why they can’t have flashing red text on their pages or why their name can’t appear in green text, because green is their favorite color.

Consistency is key and ensuring that everyone is on the same page early, is how you’ll save yourself a ton of headaches as you prepare to roll out your new web site.

  1. Interesting insight. Thanks for sharing, Paul! One thing I’ve learned it’s that each institution and their quirks make such things very different. I’ve been in 3 different places and each place does it their own way. I think it depends almost as much as the people you have in-house, as it does the system you’re using and there isn’t a perfect way to do it ever, so it’s finding “what’s perfect for you…” that makes all the difference.

  2. We have a decentralized system and I actually find that you can overcome the challenges of training and the style. The tougher challenge that we have faced is that most of the time you have Directors or Chairs asking that long documents get posted on the site and the people updating the site don’t feel the “power” to make those documents and pieces of information web friendly.

Comments are closed.