I knew after my first day at VisionPoint that there was no reason to worry, it was evident that everyone in the office was incredibly welcoming. Within the first week I had had conversations with everyone and knew more than just first names.
Graphic Design Entries
A well designed community college website can be a great beacon for the college, enhancing the brand and reputation while creating a positive experience for students and community members who interact with it. Understanding the challenges and best practices in community college website design can help to ensure that navigating your site will not be a frustrating part of the community college experience. In this set of articles, we will discuss everything you need to know to make your community college website great. This is a three-part series that will address the following:
- Part 1: The Challenges
- Part 2: Trends (For Better or Worse)
- Part 3: Showcase of Community College Web
Part 1: The Challenges
There are many challenges when addressing the design and information architecture (IA) of a community college website. For this article we address three of the more common challenges we have seen and give some advice on how to either avoid or fix them.
Future students, current students, visiting students, veterans, the general community, alumni and employees are just some of the many groups of people who use community college websites. Researching and understanding the many types of users of a community college website can be very helpful in determining the site’s organization and layout; however it is also important to keep in mind that some users may not fit neatly into a certain group. Using a set of user-based gateways as the only way to navigate the site can become confusing to users who do not fit into a user group.
Using user gateways on the site is unavoidable for community colleges because of the large amount of needs, but using it as a primary navigation that can make your site clunky and confusing. The best way we have seen them employed is as a utility. By simplifying them to a couple of promos and essential links, they become more user friendly and simplify the site for people who do not navigate with gateways. One example of how gateways can be employed is with a sticky footer. Wake Tech used a sticky footer that stayed constantly at the bottom of the page and had lists of links and promos for their various user types.
Tons of Content
Community colleges can be very challenging to manage, because not only do they house a large amount of content, but the content is often very diverse and hard to categorize. Not to mention, there are many legal limitations based around how content can be organized and displayed, such as the academic catalog.
Researching and cataloging all different types of content (news, calendar, course listings, directory listings, etc.) can be very beneficial while in the strategy phase, because it ensures that all the pieces of content can be addressed in IA and design. There are two key things to keep in mind while organizing your site’s content. First, there are no quick fixes. When done well, content organization takes a lot of time and patients, and should be well thought – out from all perspectives. Second, there’s always room for improvement after the site has been launched. Using site metric tools like Google Analytics and search logs can help reveal any user pain points and areas for improvement.
Too many cooks in the kitchen
We have all seen when a homepage becomes a billboard for all of the people within the college. Or, it could be a frankensteined site with many different styles or colors on one page. These are all symptoms of having too many cooks in the kitchen. Unfortunately, those people aren’t going away. The key to this problem is setting up site governance and web standards. Governance is a system of guidelines and approvals within an organization to ensure that content is reviewed by the right people before being put onto a site.
Next Time: Trends (For Better or Worse)
Check back next time to learn about trends we found in community college websites, and whether you should follow them or avoid them. See you then!
Video: Tony and Diane give their opinion on what you need to take into account before redesigning your institution's website.
Born from advertising in the 1950s, brainstorming has been an essential form of idea generation at many of the most innovative companies in the world. However, misunderstandings about the process and purpose of brainstorming have risen over the years. In this article, I will present a few misunderstandings about brainstorming, and tips to help you in the activity of brainstorming.