Publications & Products
Volume 3, Issue 10

Redesigning a Community College Website

Community college leaders should involve faculty and staff when planning an overhaul of their institution's website, say an advancement director and a web manager.

When Eileen Archibald took over as director of institutional advancement at Phoenix College in Phoenix, Ariz., she inherited an institutional website that was unpopular with faculty and staff. She discovered that the college community was, by and large, not consulted in a previous website redesign. In addition, the website had a custom-coded content management system that was complicated to manage, and the vendor that had created the system was practically unreachable to provide assistance and address concerns.

"There were so many people angry about the website," Archibald says. "In a manner of speaking, though, their anger helped us meet budget to do a complete redesign."

Archibald convened a team of 24 people from departments throughout the college who had a significant stake in its website—including athletics, faculty, information technology, recruitment, student life, workforce development and other areas. The team was assigned to read various books on web design, so that its members could understand the basic process and use the same language when talking about the project. The team researched its favorite and award-winning websites to determine what made them aesthetically pleasing and functional. In addition, the team took part in a role-playing exercise in which its members enumerated what they would want from a website if they were, for example, a current or prospective student.

This discovery process, to determine what the college wanted from its new website, took two semesters. Web manager Phil Munroe says vendors can help colleges through this process but notes that Phoenix College saved money doing this on its own. Munroe added that the institution also felt more comfortable knowing what its goals were for the redesign before searching for a vendor.

"We were able to pair our vision with a vendor's experience," he says. "We were able to provide feedback ... and not just go along with what the vendor thought [we should do with our website]."

Munroe was also able to convince Archibald and other college leaders that its website should use an open-source content management system—meaning it could be altered freely by the college's web team and a single vendor would not be the sole source of support to fix any future problems.

Archibald and Munroe will further discuss how they overhauled their college's website—including information on how to leverage analytics to optimize the web experience—in an upcoming CASE webinar on April 15.

This article is from the April 2014 issue of the Community College Advancement News.

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