Tuesday, May 29, 2007

University Web Services Infrastructures

A review of how some universities manage their web services organizations.

About three years ago I did a presentation at EduCause about the organization of Web Services and Web Development departments at a variety of universities. Though the examples in the PowerPoint from that presentation may be a bit dated (read: some of the links no longer work), the points and issues I raised in the presentation are still valid.

Here's a link to that original PowerPoint.

The top issues campuses are facing with regard to their web presence:
  • Identity, Branding & Consistency
    • #1 issue at virtually every campus I spoke with
    • Greater even than content management
    • 87% said visual consistency very important
  • Decentralized Web Presence
    • Even the best campus would rate “poor to hopeless” compared to the worst
      e-commerce site
    • SLO
      • Two-year redesign process only affected top two levels of pages
      • Can only “recommend” use of new template to departments
    • CSUDH uses “stick” approach
      • Buy-in from the very top
      • “Conform with new template by Dec 15th or have your link pulled from
        the site”
  • Content Management & Other Systems
    • The most consistent campus sites all use an enterprise-level CMS

Based on what I saw being done at other universities, I developed a basic infrastructure outline that could be implemented at most universities, including CSU, Chico:
  • Permanent advisory/planning committee
    • Advises on priorities, future direction, messages and policies
    • More strategic in focus than day-to-day
    • Typically no specific design authority; may set university branding standards
  • Administration
    • Coordinates between departments
    • Runs servers
    • Often enforces standards, sets technical standards
    • Provides staffing & expertise
  • Implementation team
    • Designs and implements websites and services
    • Provides technical expertise
    • Enforces standards on sites it implements
    • Designers, programmers, developers, information architects, project managers
  • “Web Users” group
    • A way for departmental webmasters to keep up with standards
    • Provides an avenue of communication between editors and Implementation Team, Administration and Advisory Committee
    • Support group for web editors
    • Provide training, troubleshooting

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