Earlier this week, iperceptions had the honor of sponsoring, speaking and attending #PSEWEB, a conference for college and university marketers, programmers, designers, digital architects and community managers – the people behind the online faces of higher education. The conference was filled with a range of exceptional sessions and bright minds. Below I highlight two sessions that particularly stood out for me.
Redesign of UBC.ca: A Paradigm Shift
Adrian Liem, Senior Web Coordinator at The University of British Columbia, gave us an inside view of the process, setbacks, and lessons learned from UBC.ca redesign. Historically, UBC.ca was designed to be informational and functional. As a result, the site found itself with link clusters that were confusing, overwhelming and daunting for the user. The site was organization-centric and trying to be everything to everyone, in the end serving no one. The goal of the redesign was to move UBC’s main web channel from a functional, informational gateway, to a more experiential channel, and they succeeded. Just visit UBC.ca and you will notice instantly it is different from other higher education websites.
In addition to collecting customer feedback as part of the redesign process, Adrian and his team conducted a competitive analysis. But they didn’t confine themselves to higher education digital properties. They turned to the big brands to get a better understanding of how to provide a great online experience. This was my key takeaway from Adrian’s presentation. Just because UBC.ca is a university, it doesn’t mean its online experience is confined to the norms of higher education. With a digitally savvy and empowered audience, thinking outside of the box and prioritizing the experience is by far a competitive advantage. Fortunately for UBC, they were given the flexibility to do so. To learn more about the redesign process of UBC.ca see Adrian’s presentation here
A Manifesto for a Digital Campus
Brian Hawkins, Communications Officer for IT at Indiana University, presentation hit the ground running stating, “Our digital campus is becoming the gateway to our physical campus.” In a digitally connected world, this is the reality for higher education institutions, just like it is for governments and Fortune 500 brands. More than ever the online experience impacts offline decisions. This is particularly true in higher education where prospective students and parents turn to the university’s web presence to better understand the on campus experience. But too often, the experience doesn’t meet expectations or properly convey the beauty and energy of the physical campus. Brian highlighted how universities take great care and pride in their physical campus. Entire departments are devoted to landscaping, architecture and maintenance of the physical space. On campus, students are guided with signage from one department to the next, sidewalks and paths accompany students from one department to another.
The beautiful Princeton University campus - Image source: Filipe Fortes
But online, this is an entirely different story. Brian asked, “Why can I walk from one faculty to another in the physical world but not online?” And the answer is a lack of an overarching strategy with a solid and flexible infrastructure. Brian’s talk was a digital campus manifesto that stressed the need for a centralized web strategy and development. Brian’s talk was focused on higher education, but his insights are relevant for any organization that has an online and offline presence. As we turn more and more to our devices, the online experience will have a greater impact on our offline decisions. Brian’s talk is a lesson to all of us who are trying to bridge the online and offline experience. To read Brian’s article, How to Care for Your Digital Campus which his presentation was based on click here.
Above is just a snippet of the great content that was shared at #PSEWEB. My two takeaways from #PSEWEB are to compare your digital presence to the best and always strive for an overarching digital strategy. I look forward to next year’s edition. In the meantime, check out the #PSEWEB conversation on Twitter.