WordPress as a Higher-Ed CMS

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Are you in charge of a college or university website? Has your website outgrown itself, is the creative inconsistent /outdated and static HTML pages a bear to maintain? If so, you will want to view …

Are you in charge of a college or university website? Has your website outgrown itself, is the creative inconsistent /outdated and static HTML pages a bear to maintain? If so, you will want to view my presentation, WordPress as a Higher-Ed Content Management Solution.
This presentation will show yout how an *Army of One* brought together Marketing, IT and a skeptical community college using WordPress as a CMS (the College’s first), for their first major public redesign in over 6 years. Learn about how WordPress allows a team of three to maintain control of presentation and functionality while empowering individual departments to directly manage their own content.

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  • 1. WordPress as a Higher-Ed Content Management Solution
    Hanna Arnold
    Director, Online CommunicationsNorthern Essex Community College
  • 2. Overview
    My Background
    The Web and Northern Essex Community College’s background
    WordPress? Yes--WordPress!
    Rolling out WordPress as a CMS
    Launching the site
    Now what?
    Lessons Learned
    WordPress as a Higher-Ed CMS
    @HannaArnold
  • 3. My Background
    • Education
    • 4. BFA in Painting, Rochester Institute of Technology
    • 5. MFA in Painting &New Media from SUNY New Paltz
    • 6. Professional Experience
    • 7. Large global companies mainly in the B2B arena (GTE, Ericsson)
    • 8. Smaller local companies (VerticalNet (B2B), Potpourri group (B2C))
    • 9. Freelance
    • 10. UMASS and Mass College of Art
    WordPress as a Higher-Ed CMS
    @HannaArnold
  • 11. My Professional Roles
    Graphic/Web Designer
    Production Manager
    Project Manager
    Marketing Communication Manager
    UX Specialist
    Interactive Marketing Manager
    Creative Director
    Director, Online Communications
    WordPress as a Higher-Ed CMS
    @HannaArnold
  • 12. Prior to Arriving at NECC
    • First generations of the college’s websites was done in static HTML
    • 13. Impossible to maintain with 2 part-time people
    • 14. No online strategy, no cross communications with other departments
    • 15. The website was viewed as a “big repository/filing cabinet”
    • 16. Content was duplicated 2, 3, 4 times over the site
    • 17. Content was not correct, outdated
    WordPress as a Higher-Ed CMS
    @HannaArnold
  • 18. Prior to Arriving at NECC
    Slow time to market with simple content edits
    Content owners would have to wait 3-5+ days for minor edits to be made
    Content/assets would be sent to the Communications Department (e.g. a document) for updating, only to have a mistake in the document, and another one sent to replace it. (duplication of effort)
    WordPress as a Higher-Ed CMS
    @HannaArnold
  • 19. Prior to Arriving at NECC
    Total dissatisfaction with the website
    Everyone (up to the president of the college) was frustrated with the site
    The site was the laughing stock of the college (people--including the President--would say *it is on the web, and good luck finding it*
    WordPress as a Higher-Ed CMS
    @HannaArnold
  • 20. Prior to Arriving at NECC
    Marketing and IT did not do joint planning, did not know how to communicate/speak to one another
    New CIO had used WordPress at a previous college, mainly as blogging software
    The college knew it needed to *do something* about the web
    Needed someone to bridge the gap between Marketing and IT/MIS (New role, Director of Online Communications was created)
    WordPress as a Higher-Ed CMS
    @HannaArnold
  • 21. Shifting Gears—Time to Think Outside the Box
    Clear goals were set for the NECC’s web presence
    Distributed publishing (content experts making small edits to their pages)
    Replace the functionality and creative on the outdated public website
    Create a faculty/staff intranet, separate from the public site
    Implement a system for faculty web pages
    WordPress as a Higher-Ed CMS
    @HannaArnold
  • 22. Shifting Gears—Time to Think Outside the Box
    Remember we are a Community College
    Limited staff, budget
    One full-time position in Marketing
    ½ time position in MIS
    Had some money for contractors for content migration
    Staggering amount of content to manage
    900+ pages, 1200+ media assets
    WordPress as a Higher-Ed CMS
    @HannaArnold
  • 23. WordPress? Are you NUTS?
    Really? Isn't that just for blogging?
    No one uses it for *real websites*!
    Who knows how to use it?
    Do you have a better idea? No?
    Then what do we have to lose?
    WordPress as a Higher-Ed CMS
    @HannaArnold
  • 24. WordPress? Really!
    Decision made based on examples from small business and non-profit sectors
    • We had the expertise internally for design, UX, PHP development
    • 25. Developed a project plan
    Contracted a Linux Administrator
    Hired content migraters, cleansed content
    WordPress as a Higher-Ed CMS
    @HannaArnold
  • 26. WordPress? Really!
    Used Atahualpa theme as a basis/point of departure
    Integrated ~20 plug ins
    Integrated LDAP user accounts
    Constructed 10 various templates
    Some for design layout, some for functionality
    WordPress as a Higher-Ed CMS
    @HannaArnold
  • 27. WordPress? Really!
    WordPress single install VS WPMU
    CIO was convinced to go with Single install, we went down the wrong path, but are now going into MU
    Tried launching the site 2 times and failed because of the configuration of the site mainly issues with cache
    WordPress as a Higher-Ed CMS
    @HannaArnold
  • 28. Rolling Out WordPress to the College
    • Defining roles for editing the site, what should we have the content experts have access to?
    • 29. Can edit an existing page/content (that they are assigned to)
    • 30. Can replace document(s) CURRENTLY on the site
    • 31. Online Communications and Power-users in MarCom can create new pages, new posts, add new documents
    • 32. ID-ed extended editors, brought them together for trainings a few weeks before launch
    WordPress as a Higher-Ed CMS
    @HannaArnold
  • 33. The Launch
    Launched June 30, 2010
    Redesign took 13 months
    Site was received extremely well
    Creative, Functionality, Content
    Extended editors are thrilled with ease of use
    Can make as many changes as they want
    Update the document as many times as they want
    2010 NCMPR Sliver Metal winner
    WordPress as a Higher-Ed CMS
    @HannaArnold
  • 34. Next Steps for necc.mass.edu
    Migration into WP 3
    Usability Testing
    Reworking of IA
    Refinement of Creative
    Refinement of Functionality
    WordPress as a Higher-Ed CMS
    @HannaArnold
  • 35. What is Next for Online Communications at NECC
    Using WP as a CMS has allowed strategic online projects to become *fast-tracked*
    Social Media & Location Based engagement
    Optimized Mobile Site (Aug.16 launch)
    Launch of Mobile App for Current Students (Aug. 30 launch)
    myNECC Portal development (Jan. 2012)
    Continuous Improvement of Public Site
    WordPress as a Higher-Ed CMS
    @HannaArnold
  • 36. Key Takeaways
    • There will be naysayers--go with your gut,
    you CAN do it
    • Ask for help/advise
    • 37. You are only as good as your team
    • 38. Current team of 2 1/2, growing to ~3 1/2
    • 39. 1 Full-time Designer, 1 Full-time Developer (in MIS), 1 10/wk Work-study
    • 40. 1 Part-time Web Specialist, 1 Part-time Online Marketing Specialist (QA, Analytics) (Starting Sept.2012)
    • 41. Trust their judgment
    • 42. Key support from CIO, many other executive level stakeholders
    WordPress as a Higher-Ed CMS
    @HannaArnold
  • 43. Key Takeaways
    Managing Extended Editors
    Every page should have a main editor and a backup editor
    Offer training early, ideally on their specific content (they will connect with WP more easily)
    Develop a cheat sheet/site for the editors
    Logging in, making text edits, replacing a document
    KISS
    WordPress as a Higher-Ed CMS
    @HannaArnold
  • 44. Questions?
    Contact info:
    Email: hanna.arnold@comcast.net, harnold@necc.mass.edu
    Twitter @HannaArnold
    WordPress as a Higher-Ed CMS
    @HannaArnold