Launching a Higher Ed Website in 6 Months

Launching a Higher Ed Website in 6 Months

“Let’s launch a university website in 6 months.”

I’ll admit, saying it out loud sounds bonkers. If you are in higher ed and have worked on a website project, you probably do too. You may immediately think, like me, that shortcuts had to be taken or pre-designed templates were used or we just reused the same site architecture and content. However, anyone who has searched web design Melbourne will be aware that the right professionals to complete a job like this quickly do exist.

This was as custom as anything we’ve ever done. The design templates and modules as well as the graphic elements are unique to Point University. We slimmed down and reorganized the site architecture. We had a few custom integrations to build. But if there is one takeaway (aside from having amazing client partners who nailed every deadline), is that we spent more time planning and collaborating up front than anywhere else.

Here’s 5 key components we built into our process that got us from kickoff to launch in 6 months.

A few of the final design elements for

Set a Reasonable Timeline

Six months may not be reasonable for your institution. But whether it’s 9, 12, or 18 months, the same stumbling blocks exist across any institution. Curating and developing content, approvals on design and functionality/scope, and QA and testing can all take significant amounts of time. The bigger your institution, the longer this will take as you’ll naturally have more stakeholders. Regardless of whether you’re building a website yourself or using website designers, for example The Web Designer Cardiff does web design, creating the perfect website does take time. Overall, the key to a quicker timeline is finding the right amount of people to involve and when to involve them to ensure they feel bought in but also don’t bog the project down. The smaller you can keep your core team, the more agile you can be. Don’t worry though if you think that you are going to struggle, you can always get a professional company to help you when it comes to building Websites.

Keep, Kill, Modify

Speaking of buy in, the quicker stakeholders understand that some content just isn’t going to exist anymore the better. When auditing your existing architecture, you can begin with what we like to call a “keep, kill, modify” exercise. Pages that haven’t been seen by users in years or are just outdated can hit the cutting room floor, and you can use analytics to back up your decisions. Other pages may not have the appropriate voice and tone or just need refreshed photography. Those can fall into the keep/modify columns. The smaller the architecture of the new site, the less content to curate, create, or modify.

Face to Face Collaboration

The most agency shot ever–whiteboards, wireframes, and beer. We’re sorry and we’ll own this.

If there is anything that will get teams on the same page, it’s face time. Unless it’s a logistical impossibility, we build in UX, design, and content strategy workshops. It does create some extra time early in the timeline, but we’d estimate that we get that time back twofold. Stakeholders have a say on wireframes and template designs, gain a deeper understanding of what content is appropriate, and leave with a solid grasp on how the elements of the website are going to function. However, make sure that the person you’re hiring knows their job. There are ways to convert Figma to WordPress websites that can help the individual put their own design stamp online. If you’re unsure of how to make these sorts of design changes, it might be worth getting in contact with a professional company that can do this for you. No matter where you’re located, there will be professional Web designers there that can help you out. It’s also worth noting that getting your website up and running is not a job done. You need to keep on top of website maintenance in order to make sure that it runs smoothly.

Content Waves

Alright, we made it to content. Things can get hairy here if you don’t organize quickly. We’d recommend creating content waves or phases. Chunking your content into blocks of 20-50 pages at a time (depending on the overall size of your new site) can make content creation and curation a more reasonable task to manage, especially since you’ll be dependent on campus partners. If you’re looking for a good tool to manage these waves, Gather Content works great.

Thorough Scoping Speeds QA and Testing

This is where the in-person workshops are especially helpful. During those sessions, a lot of conversations around user experience and functionality take place and can thus promote a better sense of understanding between a content creator, website designer, online marketing and/or SEO professional working in a close knit team environment (a lot like those at Hooked Design and Marketing and similar firms). It, in turn, helps us creatives develop our scope doc, plus, everyone has heard how certain elements and modules will ideally work. This speeds the development and approval of the website’s scope as well as QA and testing. There are far fewer surprises during testing because of the familiarity that’s been built through the process.

What’s it all Mean?

Successful higher ed website design and development projects are much less about design and development than they are about great collaboration and project planning. Take the time upfront and you’ll save tons of time on the backend. You may want to contact a website design company in Red Deer Alberta, or one more local, to discuss how they can help you during this time so you have a back-up.

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By Matt McFadden, Director of Marketing & Strategy at Up&Up Agency. Follow Matt on Twitter at @mattmcfadden.