Who’s On the Farm?

Posted: June 3, 2015

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A few weeks ago, in the midst of a discovery call, a prospective client asked a question that caught me completely off guard. “Who’s on the farm?” they asked.

“Who’s on the farm?” I repeated. Did they think I was a farmer? Not to fear, eventually I was able to discern the roots of the question.

Fancy titles and job descriptions aside, this client wanted to better understand who the people are that make up an ideal web marketing team. More specifically, they wanted to know who they’d need to hire in order to build this team in-house. In other words, if we had all the money in the world, and could afford to hire the farm, who would be on it?

Who’s on the Farm?

These are the roles, responsibilities and skillsets that comprise an ideal-state website marketing team (the farm). If you’re identifying roles and responsibilities for a website redesign, here’s your A-team.

The Champion

Like any marketing initiative, a website redesign starts with your goals. No one better to hold individual resources accountable than a true “champion” who owns the strategy and keeps everyone focused on delivering againsts the project’s strategic goals.

Role

  • Keep the project on strategy
  • Ensure the institution’s high-level goals are considered throughout every phase of the project
  • Build consensus among stakeholders outside the immediate project team

Required Skills

  • Skilled communicator both in person and in writing – able to relate to many different types of people with different needs and goals
  • Ability to see the big picture and think strategically
  • Ability to deal with political challenges and manage expectations

Biggest Challenge

  • Gaining consensus on goals and honing the strategy

Project Manager

A website redesign is a comprehensive undertaking. Lots of moving parts, lots of opinions, and LOTS of deadlines. Enter the project manager whose principal responsibility is to translate the strategy into tactical execution while keeping everyone abreast of milestones throughout the project.

Role

  • Keep the project on time and on budget by managing day-to-day execution
  • Maintain a keen eye on challenges and risks that could potentially derail the timeline
  • Ensure all resources have the information needed–when they need it–to complete their tasks
  • Clearly communicate all issues and accomplishments to the team
  • Maintain documentation of all project phases and milestones

Required Skills

  • Extremely organized
  • Detail oriented to ensure nothing is overlooked
  • Agility to work around issues and delays that may arise

Biggest Challenge

  • Keeping everything and everyone on time and on budget

Information Architect

Information architecture encompasses a wide range of skills. Principally, the IAs job is to envision and “architect” a website structure that facilitates effective communication. After all, the purpose of IA is to organize information so users can find what they’re looking for quickly and easily–if not intuitively. An IA does this by creating models like sitemaps and page schematics which inform decisions in design, content and even technical implementation. Thus, a good IA knows a bit about all three disciplines.

Role

  • Conduct research necessary to understand the target audience (e.g. personas, analytics, demographic research) in order to align the website’s structure and nomenclature with the audience’s needs and goals
  • Create models to help users locate the information they’re seeking on the website (e.g. user scenarios, sitemaps, page schematics, workflow diagrams, etc.)
  • Organize information coherently and collaborate with designers, developers and writers to provide input from a purely user experience perspective

Required Skills

  • Demonstrated experience in UX (how structural, visual, editorial, technological and brand elements culminate together to create a user experience)
  • Able to consider the users’ goals and think from a user perspective
  • Logical, data-based, rational

Biggest Challenge

  • Understanding goals of multiple target audiences and creating order out of large quantities of information so that users can find what they’re looking for quickly and easily

Content Strategist

Most of us in marketing are familiar with the old adage that says “Content is King.” Ironically, many marketers take for granted just how crucial it is to have good, compelling, relational content on a website. Enter your content strategist, whose job is to choose what types of content (general themes and specific content pieces) will best serve your institution’s marketing goals as well as how and when to execute and distribute that content.

Role

  • Evaluate existing content to better understand what types of content exist, what resources are available to create new content and what rules are currently in place for publishing and managing content
  • Develop a strategy and plan to ensure that all website content aligns with the overall goals of the institution
  • Execute the content strategy (in partnership with other resources) in the development of new written, visual and interactive content

Required Skills

  • Shepherding skills. In other words, the ability to foster a content community that has the tools, know-how, empowerment and governance structures to execute on the content strategy
  • Able to create content that aligns with institutional goals

Biggest Challenge

  • Really knowing your audience…not just who they are and where they come from, but knowing what types of relevant content to serve them at various points in their engagement process

Graphic Designer/ UX Designer

A UX designer doesn’t just make things look pretty; that’s only a small piece of their job. A UX designer works alongside information architects and content strategists to help translate business strategies and goals into creative concepts that execute the strategies. More than just an artist, this person is a true creative and strategic thinker who combines art and technology to communicate ideas that inspire, inform and delight consumers.

Role

  • Conceptualize and develop visual explorations based on the institution’s brand identity and messaging strategy
  • Accept and incorporate feedback from subject matter experts and other stakeholders used to refine and further develop the website’s user experience
  • Present information in a visually appealing and engaging manner

Required Skills

  • Ability to balance both right-brain (highly creative and conceptual) and left-brain (insanely strategic and detail-oriented with a knack for understanding what drives client success) mentalities
  • Technical design skills (i.e. typography, color theory, conceptualization, etc.)
  • A pixel-level attention to detail
  • Knowledge of website accessibility limitations as they pertain to visual requirements such as 508c, WCAG 2.0, etc.
  • Experience working with InDesign (layout), Illustrator (illustration) and Photoshop (photo manipulation)

Biggest Challenge

  • Conceptualization. Being able to discern what a client’s goals are…and then being able to translate those goals into visual concepts that exceed expectations.

Front-End Web Developer

With so much emphasis on user experience and design, it’s all for nought without an engineer who can actually build it. Front-end developers take the schematics and visual designs and write custom code (i.e. HTML, CSS and Javascript) which can be incorporated into a CMS. More than just coders, these web wizards are responsible for everything you and I see when we open our browsers across desktop, tablet and smartphone devices.

Role

  • Translate schematics and visual designs into custom HTML, CSS and Javascript
  • Collaborate with graphic designers to ensure the user experience is technically feasible

Required Skills

  • Knowledge of various markup languages, functional requirements, usability best practices, abreast of emerging technologies, etc.
  • Ability to problem-solve
  • Experience with industry leading Content Management Systems as well as software programs like Adobe Creative Suite

Biggest Challenge

  • Keeping up with constant changes in technology and web standards (e.g. browser updates).

Digital Marketing Strategist

Many believe a university’s website is among its most valued brand assets and most foundational communications tools. Consequently, the website does not exist in a silo, but rather, is the lynchpin of an institution’s integrated marketing platform.

But building the website is only the beginning. You’ll want your web team to include a digital strategist who can leverage tactics including SEO, social media, email, banner ads, pay per click and even traditional marketing (print, radio, TV) to drive the target to dedicated landing pages and complete the marketing lifecycle.

Role

  • Plan and implement cross-channel marketing strategies and campaigns to nurture target audiences toward conversion goals
  • Iterate and measures the results of digital campaigns;
  • Ensure that all marketing initiatives are working together to accomplish the end goals
  • Create content and calls to action based on marketing goals

Required Skills

  • Ability to plan and execute Search Engine Optimization (SEO) initiatives including campaign strategy, technical audits, keyword research and content development as well as ongoing optimization, management and reporting
  • Ability to plan and execute online marketing initiatives including campaign strategy, PPC, banner ads, retargeting and landing page creation as well as ongoing optimization, management and reporting
  • Social media strategy, execution and measurement
  • Analytics strategy and measurement

Biggest Challenge

  • Marketing attribution: understanding and measuring the true impact/value of every channel against business goals

Back-End Web Developer

In its most simplified sense, the back end of a website consists of three components: a server, an application and a database. Together, these three components enable the user-facing side (i.e. the front-end) of the website to even exist. A back-end web developer builds and maintains the technology that powers these three components.

Role

  • Responsible for server-side web applications and third-party integrations
  • Collaborates with stakeholders to understand their needs and translate those needs into technical requirements documentation
  • Collaborates with front-end developers to incorporate behaviors and features into a CMS structure

Required Skills

  • Proficient with back-end programming languages (e.g. PHP, Python, Ruby on Rails, Java, .NET, etc. depending on the environment)
  • Basic understanding of front-end technologies such as HTML, CSS and Javascript
  • Understanding accessibility and security compliance

Biggest Challenge

  • Integrations with third-party applications that don’t provide an API.

So there you have it. If you had all the money in the world, and wanted to hire the farm, these are the roles and skills that may likely comprise your core team.