When it’s time for a redesign

Earlier today a tweet popped up on my #highered feed with a document about the need to redesign an institution website (Warning it’s a PDF). It was created by a group called Plattform Higher Education, which is a company based on marketing and communication needs for higher ed institutions. I really suggest you reading it yourself. It’s only one page after all but here are the bullet points.

  1. You’re three or more clicks from the contact form
  2. Your website’s look and feel doesn’t fit with your institution’s identity.
  3. For content updates to the site, you have to rely on a website designer.
  4. Your website features outdated content and images.
  5. Web analytics reveal a high bounce rate.
  6. A designer hasn’t touched your site in more than three years.
  7. Your institution has a website but lacks a mobile-specific site.

These are all really good things to look into. But I would like to suggest an 8th bullet point that pointed to your site needing a redesign.

8. It looks like shit

I’m not trying to be mean or sound like an ass but as I continue my job hunt I regularly come across department webpages that face this exact issue. In truth many face issue eight because they have fallen into issue sixes clutches. That should not be an excuse though. Your webpage should be there for a simple task. To help your students. You can’t expect your website to be of much help if it looks bad. You wouldn’t use a flyer to attract students to your program that was drawn with crayons would you?

Poor design leads to lost information. I could put all the information a student would need on a website but if it’s poorly designed and “looks like shit,” the student may not be able to find what they need or they may just give up and leave the website and end up calling or coming into the office, thus taking up more of your limited time. You can’t just “throw something together” and expect it to work.

A blog post I found earlier today characterizing some of the biggest mistakes in web design was really glaring at how common some of these errors are in higher education websites. It’s really something that needs to be properly addressed. Whether it’s through an institution-wide template or something. Allowing departments to exist with bad websites only will reflect badly on the institution as a whole.

I don’t want the impression to be though that I think that department pages that differs from the main university page are worse. Far from it, in many cases the department page is better.  But largely I’ve found it to be more poorly put together.

So I suggest to all people in higher education, sit back and take a real look at your website. It may just be time that you need a redesign. And don’t think about the money first, as by improving your website you may be getting more students and thus making the money back.

Writing and Hunting

I have really gotten into this Nanowrimo thing. Yesterday I wrote 5k and that put me at over 20,000 words today. I know I should be putting that much effort into my thesis work but it’s a different writing style. BUT! I have found that by actually taking the act of writing and staying with a set goal for daily writing it actually is helping me get into writing overall. I mean I wrote my papers conclusion yesterday. I just need to sit down and put the body together.

Honestly though, I really wish my job hunt comes to an end soon. I have been checking out webinars and podcasts, and reading many blogs to help improve my ability to sell myself as a professional. I have to say that HigherEdLive and Student Affairs Live are great and anyone interested in higher education should check them out. I think one of the hardest aspects of my search is that I’m limited by location. It’s hard to be told that I would get a job easily on the mainland when I’m committed to Hawaii. Hopefully something will work out. I had an interview but that didn’t pan out but it was interview experience and every little bit helps.

A NASFA Experience

Although I finally came down with what my wife had last week I still managed to put myself together for the Fall NAFSA luncheon that was held today at a nice Indian food restaurant. I really wish I could say more about the food but in all honesty it tasted pretty bland to me because my taste buds have stopped working because of my cold. Overall though it was a great decision to go since I was officially announced as the new Web Admin for the NAFSA Region XII Hi/Pacific District. I think getting my name out there is key in my job search. In all honesty this wasn’t an “if I do this it’ll look great on my resume” decision or one I thought up simply last minute. I had decided to do this way back in April, as I was not getting anywhere with my job search in higher ed, and yet I still wanted to be involved so that I wasn’t “left out.” Also having strong technical skills didn’t hurt either but it’s not a problem either. It was nice having someone say that they were happy  I was on the team so they had someone who wanted the position and had the skills to do it well as opposed to someone who simply accepted it cause it needed filled. I always enjoy self-esteem boosters.

Sadly I wont be able to attend the bi-regional convention next week. As much as I would love to go I can’t get the funds together. And it’s not like I’m presenting either.  I hope to put a presentation together for next April’s local conference though. I’m going to be very active in trying to create a good web presence for our district I think. I may put together a district Facebook page and a twitter hashtag, maybe something like #nafsaHI I don’t know. Plenty of time to decide it all.

I know now that, especially trying to work in private sector, that higher ed is where I want to work. It’s the environment and people that make it feel like a thriving my place. I also see that while student affairs is a kick ass place I still want to focus on international education. 5 years, 10 years, 20 years I see that as where I want to be.

NAFSA HI/Pacific Spring Conference 2011

I present to you the slideshow I used at my first ever presentation at a conference.  Overall I felt I should have practiced a little more and focused my topic better but it seemed to go over well. I think I had around twenty-five people come see it which is not bad for a regional conference that really only had attendees from Hawaii.  I think what made it go well was that rather than fully devoting to lecturing from the front of the room I went for an approach that I had seen one of my committee members use at a conference where questions were not a deterrent or interruption but rather a part of the overall presentation itself.

I submitted a proposal at the end of May for the upcoming NASFA Bi-Regional I/XI Conference in November.  I hope I get in because it would be great for the CV for the coming year when I reenter the job market moving back to the mainland and make my bid at getting employment in a higher ed program in student affairs, preferably a study abroad office.