PSEWEB 2011: Plan it and they will come


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Plan it and they will come: Lessons learned from planning a post-secondary web redesign

Presentation given at the 2011 PSWEB conference held in Toronto, Ontario.

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  • [ CHRIS ]
  • The answer to all of these questions for our institution, the Justice Institute of British Columbia, or JIBC as we’re known, was unfortunately a resounding yes. If that’s also the answer for your institution, you may be a prime candidate for a web redesign. But this isn’t a session about how to determine whether you need to do a redesign, or what elements to include in a redesigned website - it’s about how to plan the project once you’ve bitten the bullet. Planning is key because web redesigns can easily become megaprojects that you lose control of. When that happens, forget about on time and on budget. Sound planning steps you take early in the project will pay dividends later when you’re in crunch time. Planning isn’t sexy, but it will reduce the pain in a redesign. And believe me, there will be a lot of pain.
  • I’ll hand it over to Lori to talk about Our School.
  • [ LORI ]
  • Process & design - driven by vendor
  • [ CHRIS ]
  • So you’ve decided to go the redesign route, which may or may not include changing your CMS. Where do you start? In our case, we had a head start: Before I joined JIBC in late 2009, an extensive evaluation of the website had already been completed by a consultant. The evaluation, including interviews with students, staff and other stakeholders, was informally seen by senior management as a valid case for redesigning the site. But no funding had been committed and no plan was in place to make it happen. What next?
  • Honest assess: What support do you have in senior management and in other parts of the organization - who are your key supporters and who needs to be brought onside What financial and human resources are available – what are you up against: our organization was going through some tough financial times, so we knew our business case needed to be compelling What gaps will you need to fill in your core team: Web Editor to rewrite content was key hire What’s the skill set of staff, which will point to what kind of CMS would be most appropriate for them Whether you need to build bridges with IT – we had a good relationship, and knew they were technology agnostic
  • Then you’re ready to prepare a business case, which can be boiled down to this: Where are we: results of evaluation – it helps to have done one Where can we go: easy - show other sites so they can visualize the possibilities Why should we go there: it’s a marketing imperative, it’s about the reputation of our school, and it’s about service to our students How can we get there: the seeds of a plan How long will it take: not too long, not too short How much will it cost: less than the consultant said
  • After our business case was approved, there was more writing to do: a Project Charter Strategy Deliverables Tasks and timeline Defining what’s in scope and, perhaps more important, what’s not in scope. Budget: an estimate Identifying project risks and having a plan for mitigating them Roles & responsibilities of the team It’s not just a document to put away after it’s done – if it’s thorough and relevant, you’ll refer to it constantly throughout the project. Important to have senior management to sign off on this – in our case, it went right to the top, with the President signing off Your organization may have a template. If you would like me to send you the template we used - email me at the address that appears at the end of the presentation or talk to me after the session.
  • To be honest we struggled with coming up with an accurate timeline. But this gives an idea of how it worked in the end. [Briefly touch on all phases] So it’s not a clean and tidy process where one phase ends and another starts: there’s a lot of overlap And it’s not cut and dry. While most of the design work happened in the first half, the design vendor stayed involved right to the end, reviewing how their design was implemented.
  • [ CHRIS ]
  • One of the first things we did in this process was gather and prioritize a detailed list of draft requirements, which was included right in the RFP we conducted to find a web vendor and select a CMS. Advantage: made it crystal clear what was in scope for the CMS & website. Disadvantage: it could have hemmed us in. But that didn’t turn out to be a bad thing – forced us to focus on what’s essential. [ Flip to the actual requirements document in Word]
  • Research: Proprietary or open source, vendors for both Scope: Our CMS needed to talk to somewhat difficult to work with SIS: Training Partner Process: Ensure the same info is available to all proponents. If there are questions about the RFP, issue amendments with the questions and answers. To make it fair, don’t just tell individual proponents. Decide if you want to invite specific vendors to respond, in addition to public posting of RFP If you have decided to not reveal the project’s budget, for example, stick to that no matter how much proponents pressure you, and they will. Decisions like that are your prerogative. Separate web & design RFPs - web firms aren't necessarily the best choices for design, and vice versa.
  • Vendors will tell you that the CMS they’re aligned with perfectly matches your requirements, but dig deeper Customization could be huge - there's no such thing as off-the-shelf – and that’s certainly true with Drupal, which required a fair bit of customization So how do you know? Get a look at it from as many angles as possible (four white bullets) Vendors: ultimately have to assess whether you think they will put up with you and give you that extra level of support and service that will make a huge difference in the project
  • [ LORI ]
  • A true partnership, but clear who the lead dept. was and who the project lead was approvals from executive & senior management worked as a team with student services & technology services (IT) various working groups and committees our hands-on people were local admins and content editors uber admin is our webmaster
  • Give & take relationship with vendors. e.g. requirements - didn’t deliver on every single one But went well beyond call of duty in many other ways (program & course search/online registration, and something as simple as accordions)
  • key to the success of website – heart of the student experience real team approach
  • our solution to get input and buy-in on the project
  • [ LORI ]
  • various means of dealing with content
  • used extensively during project free, easy to use and to manipulate content and levels able to share ‘view only’ or edit access glitchy
  • distributed model, differing skill levels Institute content written to get our messages across (who we are, etc) defined Drupal roles & levels of access (no green text!)
  • Created levels of access and permissions
  • [ CHRIS ] Overall, staff gave us good feedback on how the project went, and that was because of communication - they felt like they were in the loop. So communication is key.
  • [Go through the different tactics] Communicate clearly to internal stakeholders how much extra time will be involved for them in delivering their part of the website. They need to understand that they will need to adjust their schedules and at crunch time, it will be all hands on deck. Be sure to acknowledge team members for their contributions during the project and after the launch.
  • Abandoned Basecamp – too many places to communicate in can cause info overload – better to keep it simple Weekly conference call kept issues on everyone’s radar Occasional face to face was helpful in working with vendors
  • Make sure your vendor has a solid issues management platform - you’ll be living in there. We used Lighthouse.
  • It’s free and easy to do.
  • [ LORI + CHRIS ]
  • [ LORI ]
  • [ CHRIS ] Program and course search/online registration scope change and missing times from course pages Meant 2 more months to the project, but well worth it
  • [ LORI ] Sometimes you drop the ball. Own up, take quick and decisive action, and move on.
  • [ CHRIS ] Taking the heat (HTML) Unexpected issues/budget reserves: (no course times) Showing up late (my online courses)
  • Participating in web analytics project to track key metrics, spearheaded by Karine Joly, the woman behind Higher Ed Experts and Site has only been live for three months: high traffic, compared to what we’ve seen in the past, in first two months. Bit of a dip in April, but still about double where we were a year before. So we know there are a lot of eyeballs on our site. Now we’re doing a post-launch evaluation to see if they’re looking in the right places. There will be more usability testing, measurement, and tweaking. The fun never stops. But this presentation has to stop. On that note …
  • [ LORI ]
  • [ CHRIS ] If you ask a question you'll get some JIBC chocolate
  • PSEWEB 2011: Plan it and they will come

    1. 1. Plan it and they will come Lessons learned from planning a post-secondary web redesign Chris Wong & Lori Munro Justice Institute of British Columbia
    2. 2. <ul><li>Are navigation and search on your website so bad that students call to ask for help… and staff trying to help them get lost too? </li></ul>
    3. 3. Do staff at your institution avoid linking prospective students to your website when marketing & recruiting?
    4. 4. Do you cringe every time your homepage comes up, due to its antiquated design? <ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul>
    5. 5. Today’s Session <ul><li>Our School </li></ul><ul><li>The Overall Plan </li></ul><ul><li>RFP Process & Choosing Vendors </li></ul><ul><li>Partnerships </li></ul><ul><li>The Content </li></ul><ul><li>Communication </li></ul><ul><li>Lessons Learned </li></ul>
    6. 6. Our School <ul><li>  </li></ul>
    7. 7. Justice Institute of British Columbia <ul><li>Founded in 1978 by provincial government </li></ul><ul><li>Originally training facility for police, correctional officers, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>Has evolved into degree-granting public post-secondary institution </li></ul><ul><li>Diverse programs: from fire to conflict resolution </li></ul><ul><li>30,000 students annually - but low FTEs due to short course length </li></ul>
    8. 8. 2007: launch of previous website  <ul><li>  </li></ul>
    9. 9. Previous Website Redesign <ul><li>Final design chosen by staff vote </li></ul><ul><li>Chosen CMS was Macromedia Contribute </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Pros: low cost </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Cons: wasn’t Dreamweaver, staff hated it </li></ul></ul>
    10. 10. January 2010: began website redesign process <ul><li>Key goals: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Improve usability - especially navigation & search </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Improve course/program search & online registration process </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Develop engaging content - web friendly, consistent in tone </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Get strategic with messaging </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Change to a user-friendly, cost-effective CMS that works for JIBC </li></ul></ul>
    11. 11. February 2011: Site Launch <ul><ul><li>Consistent navigation elements present on each page (main, utility, breadcrumbs, search box); navigation for Schools added </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Course/program search and registration completely redesigned; microcopy revised for every step </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>All content rewritten </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Success Stories – in-depth features & striking images tell story of who we are/what we do </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Drupal as our CMS </li></ul></ul>
    12. 12. The Overall Plan
    13. 13.           Where Do You Start?          
    14. 14. Assess Yourself! <ul><li>What are your organizational assets and liabilities? </li></ul>
    15. 15. Organizational Assessment <ul><li>Honestly assess: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Senior management support </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Buy-in throughout organization </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Available resources </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Skill-set of core team </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Technical skills & web savvy of department staff who will be editing the site </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Relationship with IT & their stance on key issues like open source vs. proprietary </li></ul></ul>
    16. 16. Business Case <ul><li>Where are we? </li></ul><ul><li>Where can we go? </li></ul><ul><li>Why should we go there? </li></ul><ul><li>How can we get there? </li></ul><ul><li>How long will it take? </li></ul><ul><li>How much will it cost? </li></ul>
    17. 17. Project Charter <ul><li>Key elements: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Strategy: Goals, objectives & business outcomes </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Deliverables </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Tasks & Timeline </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Scope definition </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Budget </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Risk management </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Roles & responsibilities </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Sign-off on Charter by senior management </li></ul>
    18. 18. Timeline
    19. 19. RFP Process & Choosing Vendors
    20. 20. First step: Requirements, requirements, requirements <ul><li>Gather requirements </li></ul><ul><li>Is it going to be a Rolls Royce or Honda Fit or something in between?  </li></ul>
    21. 21. RFP Groundwork & Process <ul><li>Research and know the market </li></ul><ul><li>Scope: what systems will need to interact with your CMS </li></ul><ul><li>Create an airtight process: be rigorous about making the same info available to all  </li></ul><ul><li>Separate RFPs for web development and design </li></ul>
    22. 22. Making a Decision <ul><li>Make a joint decision with IT </li></ul><ul><li>How user-friendly is the CMS? How closely does it match requirements - how much customization? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Get a non-technical demo for core team </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Have users test drive it </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Get a technical demo for IT </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Require CMS be installed on servers for internal testing </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Vendors: fit is important - working style, organizational knowledge, location </li></ul>
    23. 23. <ul><li>Partnerships </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul>
    24. 24. Roles & Responsibilities
    25. 25. Partnerships <ul><li>With multiple vendors </li></ul><ul><li>With IT, as early as the RFP stage </li></ul><ul><li>With Student Services </li></ul>+ +
    26. 26. Program & Course Search <ul><li>Multiple meetings with IT and Student Services </li></ul><ul><li>Considerations included </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Consistency of info given to students </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Government reporting requirements </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Integration of website & student data </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>microcopy </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Ensured we considered marketing + students + technology </li></ul>
    27. 27. Web Steering Committee <ul><li>Challenge: getting buy-in from 15 departments represented on website </li></ul><ul><li>Solution: give them a seat at committee table </li></ul><ul><li>Recruited members through senior management </li></ul><ul><li>Key contribution: participation in discovery sessions that helped shape strategy </li></ul><ul><li>Managed input </li></ul>
    28. 28. The Content
    29. 29. Content Plan <ul><li>‘ Writing for the web’ seminars (no cost to staff) </li></ul><ul><li>Content templates </li></ul><ul><li>Worked directly with each area on their navigation to ensure consistency of structure </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Also meant we were aware of all content going on the site </li></ul></ul>
    30. 30. Navigation <ul><li>WriteMaps: free tool for creating navigation </li></ul>
    31. 31. Content Management <ul><li>Over 50 hands-on contributors in over 15 departments </li></ul><ul><li>Past experiences informed choices </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Roles & permissions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Limited formatting options </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>No access to html </li></ul></ul>
    32. 32. Drupal Content Roles
    33. 33. <ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>  Communication </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul>
    34. 34. Internal Communication <ul><li>Web Steering Committee </li></ul><ul><li>Senior Management </li></ul><ul><li>Core team </li></ul><ul><li>Working groups </li></ul><ul><li>Staff e-newsletter </li></ul><ul><li>Blog </li></ul><ul><li>Emails to Local Admins </li></ul><ul><li>Launch events </li></ul>
    35. 35. External Communication <ul><li>BaseCamp </li></ul><ul><li>Weekly conference calls with vendors </li></ul><ul><li>Face-to-face meetings </li></ul><ul><li>Issues management system </li></ul><ul><li>Blog </li></ul><ul><li>Usability testing </li></ul>
    36. 36. Issues Management 
    37. 37. Blog  <ul><li>  </li></ul>
    38. 38. Usability Testing <ul><li>Tested pre-launch </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Representative students </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Common tasks - hands-on, think aloud </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Two Communications & Marketing staff - one to guide, one to observe </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Listen to what they say, watch what they do </li></ul><ul><li>Done cheaply: only cost was honorarium for students & lunch for staff, payoff was identifying small but important tweaks </li></ul>
    39. 39. Lessons Learned <ul><li>  </li></ul>
    40. 40. Lesson Learned: Timing <ul><li>Training staff on CMS while still customizing CMS </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Painful but essential </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Highlighted key issues while developer could still resolve them </li></ul></ul>
    41. 41. Lesson Learned: Scope Change <ul><li>Assess the need - determine if worth it </li></ul>
    42. 42. Lesson Learned: Communication <ul><li>Creating myJIBC altered access to online courses </li></ul><ul><li>Had to add “My Online Courses” to navigation the morning of site launch </li></ul>
    43. 43. A Few More Lessons Learned <ul><li>Take the heat, be flexible, but stick to your plan </li></ul><ul><li>Unexpected issues WILL happen – be ready </li></ul><ul><li>Keep some reserves in your budget for unexpected issues </li></ul><ul><li>Don't show up late the morning after the launch </li></ul><ul><li>As workload & issues mount, stay calm - keep your eyes on the prize </li></ul>
    44. 44. Analytics Website Traffic: Number of Visits
    45. 45. Feedback <ul><li>“ A few years ago I sent you a note to you lamenting the “new” website. At that time, I was not a fan due to the fact that it was so tough to tunnel down into the individual courses and then tunnel down to check schedules. This is certainly not the case any longer. I am thoroughly impressed with the functionality and the look of the new website.” </li></ul>
    46. 46.   <ul><li>Questions? </li></ul>
    47. 47. Contact Us <ul><li>Chris Wong [email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>Lori Munro </li></ul><ul><li>Website </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>Facebook </li></ul><ul><li>Twitter </li></ul>