I came up with a new mantra during meetings with one of my Boston university clients last week. The mantra is that a website cannot be centrally planned. You can’t sit around a table with faculty and staff and come up with the perfect website. Yet this is what most universities do. And they do this over a 1-2 year period. By the time the website is finally launched (after months of approvals), it is already obsolete, and it speaks more to the faculty and staff than to the prospective student.
We now have tools where we can visually understand how visitors interact with our website pages. We no longer have 1-2 year grace periods in which to launch websites. We have a few months. It’s better to take what we’ve learned from the past, begin measuring the existing site, and then begin making changes. These changes should definitely take faculty and staff knowledge into consideration, but also consider analytics reports.
Using this information, we can quickly make design, content, and functionality updates to our websites and begin measuring those results. Stanford University updates their designs every 4 months. Yes, 4 months! They can quickly make changes that would take other universities 1-2 years to fix in their next websites.
Websites today are about small, continual improvements.