27: Prepping for a Web Redesign at Gettysburg College w/ Paul Fairbanks

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Paul Fairbanks, Director of Creative Services at Gettysburg College discusses the front work necessary to prepare for, get buy-in, and launch a successful web redesign process at your institution.

Find a breakdown of this episode here.

You're listening to enrollment growth university fromHelix Education, the best professional development podcast for higher education leaders looking to growenrollment at their college or university. Whether you're looking for fresh enrollment growth techniquesand strategies or tools and resources, you've come to the right place. Let'sget into the show. Welcome back to enrollment growth university, a proud memberof the connect eedu podcast network. I'm Eric Olson, AVP of marketing atHelott Education, and we're here today with Paul Fairbanks, director of creative servicesat Gettysburg College. Paul, welcome to the show. Thanks for having me. I'm really excited about this conversation because we're going to be talking about Webredesigns today, but not even getting to the actual design challenges, where becomesa terribly political creative exercise, but the before and how to prep for andget buy in for successful Web design process at your institution. But before wedig too deep into that, Paul, can you do the listeners a littlebit better understanding of both Gettysburg College and...

...your role there? All right,so gets for college is a small residential Liberal Arts College in South Central Pennsylvania. Obviously Gettysburg has a lot of history associated with it and we try toadvantage of that. The actual building I'm standing right now is a civil warhospital during the battle, so we're tied to our history in many different ways. We Roll about twenty six hundred undergraduates and my role here is I'm inthe Office of Communications and marketing and and sort of as most highered professionals do, you wear a lot of hats. I oversee the multimedia team, dosome stuff for social media and content strategy and, most importantly, take careof the website on the front end side of things. Awesome. To kickoff this conversation ball, what was the primary motivation for deciding it was timefor an overhaul of your website? What were their content concerns? Organizational Concerns, design concerns? A little bit of everything, but mostly design concerns.We hadn't done a real redesign in over ten years and looking around and tryingto keep up with everybody else, we...

...felt like it was time. Wewanted to sort of sort of tear everything down and build it back up fromstratch. You know how, as time passes, you may add things onhere and there and change templates here there and all of a sudden end upwith a lot of despair pieces that don't really have a lot of cohesions.We sort of wanted to start fresh. Awesome, awesome. Let's talk ownership. Who owns your website today at your institution and who ended up on thisweb redesign committee you form for this project? And why? Right, so,the issue of ownership is sort of want of government. So I kindof consider, you know, like no one and everyone owns it. Sowe we have the CMS content management system that allows all every department and andact administrative office to have control over their piece of the website. So wehave a distributed model. All things considered, we will probably be moving to amore centralized model moving forward. We've found that, you know, thathelps us control are messaging a little bit better. But, you know,so our office has the most control over...

...the website, but in a sense, everybody has a hand in it and some sort of ownership. The webredesign committee is sort of a cross section of campus. There's faculty, there'speople from our development office, people from the missions office, people from oursort of financial services and student support and we even have a student on theon the committee. We felt that least was important our it department, obviously, because they're going to be critical and helping us actually launch the site.So yeah, definitely a cross section and making sure that everybody across campus isknows what's going on and is brought into the process awesome. So let's talkabout this initial scoping exercise you held that you found so helpful in getting allthese various stakeholders on board with the process from the very beginning. Right.So, we actually got the green light to move forward to this last springand we trying to serve wrap our heads around how it's all going to work. Do we just put out a request for proposals broadly and see what comesin, or what do we want to...

...do? And we actually have agroup of Lans and friends of the college that meet once in a while togive us some advice, and one of their pieces of advice was to doscoping exercise, to do some initial research before the RFP to make sure thateverybody's on the same page and those what we're getting into with the redesign process. So that's what we decided to do. We hired an agency to do someresearch for us and then also do an on campus workshop with every webredesign committee, and what that did was allow everyone to understand why we're goingthrough this exercise and how what the goals are. And also the workshop wasincredibly valuable because it gave a scope for what was involved. So I livein the web world and understand what was going to happen, but this webredesign committee, they may look at the website every now and then or mayupdate their content on the occasional basis, but there don't live and breathe itkind of in the same way. So this workshop was really valuable helping themunderstand that first we're going to do this and then we're going to look atsome concepts and then we might see how...

...the contents going to fit into thatand in the end we're going to have this design system that that allows usto have this great new website. Say, it was really valuable and also exposingsome different pain points that that may come along and some understandings of what'sout there. It was very much a chance to educate the web redesign committeeon and where we are and where we need to go. And so whatwas partially the goal of that initial scoping exercise to not let it turn intothis kind of spiral debate on what this I should look like and what theAII should look like. But it was really just here's the process, we'vethought this through for no better term, kind of kind of defer to theprocess, but without kind of your initial bill going into that exercise. Yeah, totally. It definitely was very high level. It really helped us framethe RFP, helped, you know, US make sure that when we wereputting out that RP that we were we were asking for what we actually wanted. And so yeah, definitely. What were some of your favorite or maybemost surprising takeaways from all these predesigned exercises,...

...coming from the voices of your stakeholdersthat you might not have gotten to without having done those exercises? Well, yeah, I think that, you know, in hied web there's alwaysthat sort of balance between marketing and information and transactional stuff. So, youknow, the website serves many audiences and it can't be a hundred percent amarketing tool, depend on who you ask. So you know, we try tofind that balance of putting our best foot forward but also providing the informationthat any audience may need. So one of the things that we came outof the scoping exercise with, and that was sort of refreshing for me,was that everybody agreed the primary goal is recruitment aimed at perspective students in theirfamilies, which seems obvious from a marketing side of point viewpoint, but isn'tentirely obvious to everybody else on the committee and and everybody else on campus.So that was good, I guess you can. And was there a struggleto get there, or do you just...

...talk it through, or were theirlouder voices on this design committee that that kind of helped, you know,steamroll that idea down. Yeah, I would even hesitate. These were likesteam roll. I think it was just, you know, based on the initialresearch, again, that value of having some research up front from variousstakeholders, lums and it's current students and even some different bodies, that youjust sort of started to build the consensus of why we're doing this exercise.But they're even you know, the informational piece of it isn't necessarily doesn't meanit's not a marketing piece. I mean the value of having a robust andinteresting faculty profile template is has a value. You know it's worthwhile. So youknow, getting that faculty buy and like well, you need to helpus if we can help you. So that kind of thing. And itwas there any particular research that helped people in the committee kind of defer tothe research in terms of, you know, what percentage of folks are perspective studentsversus current students who are how did the research help you kind of getbuying on this process? But part of...

...it was was seen where we fitwithin, you know, the broader scope of things and taking a sort ofa look around of what other schools are doing was helpful and then also justsee that the specific feedback from our different stakeholder's about some maybe not so kindwords about the current site and things like that, so that I'll help tosort of paint the picture for us. It's awesome. And now that you'rein the design stage of this process, how have those kind of predesign exercisesand steps you've already taken made this current part of the process easier? Ithink the biggest thing is it sort of reduced any surprises, not so muchfor me but for the rest of the committee. So we're actually in ain ten days we're going to have initial design concepts, which I'm very excitedacause I don't really know what we're going to get. But even then,the importantly, we're not starting with the home page, because that's sort ofyour billboard, right, but that's not where we want to start. Wewant to present some concepts that will sort of build on that educational foundation wetry to give them. Of We're building a system, not just a homepage, was supporting pages. So we want to have what redesign committee takea look at it, some internal pages...

...and start to understand how the differentcomponents of different pages will work together and how you can take things out andput things in, and so that modularity of sort of atomic design and adesign system and how it's all going to work together. So so, yeah, they have a clear expectation of what's coming, you know, open communicationand so yeah, so that part's been really good for laying a strong foundationto build on. It's awesome. Awesome, Paul. Anything you've learned in theprocess that didn't feel like it was particularly high value or things that youdo differently next time? Things I do differently next time? Well, it'sa little bit surprised when the proposal started coming in from the RP. Wedidn't do an open RFP. We sort of targeted some different agencies that wewanted to work with and so we sort of left it open ended, intentionintentionally, but the scope of proposals we got back was was interesting in thatthey all didn't necessarily address all of the things in the rfpiece. I guessthat I could do one thing differently. would be maybe too we intentionally lessenthe agns just to let them show us...

...what they are capable of. Theperhaps be more detailed than and what we were asking for. I don't know. On the efflice side is other agencies appreciated that sort of open endedness andtook advantage of it's some I don't know if that's a lesson learned or not. Now that's fascinating and I'm sure most agencies aren't used to committees, youknow, really thinking through the scope before calling on them. Right, theyming to take in your rb very loosely in terms of that's maybe what someoneon their team thinks they want, but I'm not sure. And so theygive ex something differently. Right, and you know, I don't know howmany times you go through a redesign process. It doesn't happen very often, itcertainly here, and so it's been interesting just for me to see allthe bits and pieces and how they off it together. And and the biggestbenefit, I think, the scoping is it just sets like I said earlier. So it's a foundation. You know, we're all on the same page,we have a pretty a shared understanding of what we're doing here and whywe're doing it, and so I think it just really lays the framework forsuccess and that was one of the selling points of doing it. Is thatis that so many of these projects get...

...sidetracked for numerous different reasons. Sofar, so good, really good, Paul. Any any next step advicefor other institutions about to embark on this web design process? Where should theystart first? Yeah, I mean, even if you don't go to anoutside agency, to try to make sure that your committee is on the samepage and has as a shared understanding of why why you're doing it. Youknow, we've chosen to sort of break it all down and build it upagain. I know that there's different paths you can take. You know someonerecently you know share. You know you can either do what we're doing andsort of build a new house, or you can put a fresh code ofpaint on your old house. I mean, there's different strategic values and either things, but we felt like we were at a point where we want toreally may make sure that we are starting from zero and going to build somethinggreat. So, Paul, grateful for your time today. Well, what'sthe best place for listeners to connect with you they have any follow up questions? I'm not bitter, probably more than I should be. Pest Maam myinitial pees and then NAM and am years...

...ago as a Peace Corp volunteer inthe maybe as. So I sort of grab that as my twitter hand them. That's awesome, awesome. Thanks against so much for joining us today andin sharing the results of your process midstream, and we're excited to see the finalproduct when it comes out. Pall Great. Yeah, thanks, it'sbeen a pleasure. Attracting today's new post traditional learners means adopting new enrollment strategies. Helix educations data driven, enterprize wide approach to enrollment growth is uniquely helpingcolleges and universities thrive in this new education landscape, and Helix has just publishedthe second edition of their enrollment growth playbook with fifty percent brand new content onhow institutions can solve today's most pressing enrollment growth challenges. Downloaded today for freeat Helix Educationcom. Playbook. You've been listening to enrollment growth university from HelixEducation. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the shownitunes or your favorite podcast player. Thank...

...you so much for listening. Untilnext time.

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