HighEdWeb 2016 - Western Oregon University's Website Redesign

The 2016 HighEdWeb conference was held in the wonderful city of Memphis, TN – Home of Rock & Roll, Graceland, Beale Street and the best fried chicken!

With a packed schedule of sessions over the few days, my main focus was towards design, writing good content, SEO and accessibility. I handpicked the best of the sessions over those few days.

Hello from the other side!

First session was from Lisa Catto of Western Oregon University to talk about the lessons learned from their website redesign, and with references to the hilarious Adele sketch in Saturday Night Live, this was a great presentation.

As I have worked on redesigns as an Implementation Analyst for TERMINALFOUR over a number of years, I did want to hear from the other side (pun intended) when it comes to a redesign and issues that can happen. Lisa started with talking about how her team was tasked to do a content overhaul of the site, to rewrite or delete content not required anymore. Then without their knowledge they heard of a surprise redesign from the Department of Unicorn studies (obviously a made-up name to hide the real department involved). That department got permission to do their own redesign on their part of the site different to the rest of the site, thus the question “can I join the conversation?”. The team decided to do a redesign of the entire site.

Image of a screen with the text 'Take your expected launch date and add six months

When it comes to a redesign - firstly, timing is important. The redesign was done in 8 months and was too rushed. There was templates issues and minimal testing time. Make a timeline for your redesign process and get everyone involved. Meet with folks involved in the process regularly. Check in with people to ensure they have done their part.

Who is the audience you are targeting? They will always be battles of what should be on the homepage for example - why isn’t there a huge give button on the homepage? Should current student information be in a portal or public? Ensure to do a focus group with a local high school and then decide what your primary audience is and share it with everyone.

With the transition plan, Western Oregon University used dreamweaver but now use a CMS. Requests had to be given by email and departments could only edit certain parts of the page. Do you move all the site at once to the new design or certain parts like Admissions first? Finally who will be the decision-makers? Some departments wanted a redesign now, so they put the new template in dreamweaver instead. This caused the existing content not to work with the new templates. Decide who will be the Administrators, powerusers, moderators and contributors. Get even the president to sign off on these decisions.

A wonderful presentation (with warts and all). 

View Lisa’s presentation online.