INSIDE BINGHAMTON UNIVERSITY
Q&A: Drew Hill on the Web
Drew Hill, Web director, recently spoke with Inside about several upcoming initiatives that will improve the University’s online presence.
What’s in store for the University’s Web site?
The Web is the communications vehicle of choice for many of our audiences. For example, prospective students see the Web as second only to a campus visit in the importance of their selection process. Our goal is to enhance the design, navigation, look, feel and content of our University Web presence to showcase and enhance the reputation of excellence that we have achieved.
We are undertaking a major redesign, but will also provide more efficient, user-friendly tools for people on campus to use to update their Web pages. It is a holistic process that will take some time, but the result will be a more dynamic, more easily maintained site.
How will pages be maintained?
A new content management system will give people who are closest to information the power to update that information without being technical experts. In fact, the system is designed to enable non-technical people to keep information fresh and let more technically savvy people do more.
A set of pre-designed page templates will increase the system’s sustainability over time and help maintain a consistent user experience. This will level the playing field on campus for Web publishers, make it easier to update pages and help avoid some of the problems we have with “information rot.”
How soon with the campus see some changes?
We’re hiring a consulting firm to help with the redesign and redevelopment project. The request for proposals is out now and we will be reviewing bids soon.
We hope to start work in January after the consultants learn more about the University, including our strategic plan and our brand guidelines.
I expect the home page and other top-level pages will be redesigned in the spring. We’re planning an incremental roll-out, so it will be several more months before the changes penetrate deeper.
Have you been through an undertaking like this before?
I led a redesign project very similar to this one at the State University College at Oswego before joining the Binghamton staff earlier this year.
In Oswego, we introduced a content management system and redesign in 2004. Aside from the kudos received from industry groups, another sign that the project was a success is that the site demonstrated sustainability. It stayed fairly up to date, even though it took the school several months to find my successors. The site could be and was maintained by a variety of people.
What’s next for Binghamton’s site?
When the redesign is complete and the content management system is in place, we will will be in much better shape in terms of usability and accessibility. We’ll also employ Web standards so we’ll be better able to repurpose our content in ways we’re not even thinking about yet.
That’s when a the new phase of work to enhance our online capabilities will begin. You know, in Japan, more people access the Internet from their cell phones than from their desktops. We have to be prepared for changes like that and set the foundation with our site for the future state of the Web. It will also and help make our visitors’ interactions with the virtual Binghamton University more meaningful and engaging.
How can people learn more about the project?
I will be keeping a blog at http://blogs.binghamton.edu/index.php/webproject with weekly updates on the project. It’s meant to be a place where people can discuss the project, meet me virtually and get answers to their questions.