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 from Helix Education, the best professional development podcast for higher education leaders looking to grow enrollment at their college or university. Whether you're looking for fresh enrollment growth techniques and strategies or tools and resources, you've come to the right place. Let's get into the show. Welcome back to enrollment growth university, a proud member of the connect eedu podcast network. I'm Eric Olson, AVP of marketing at Helott Education, and we're here today with Paul Fairbanks, director of creative services at 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 Web redesigns today, but not even getting to the actual design challenges, where becomes a terribly political creative exercise, but the before and how to prep for and get buy in for successful Web design process at your institution. But before we dig too deep into that, Paul, can you do the listeners a little bit 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 to advantage of that. The actual building I'm standing right now is a civil war hospital 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 in the 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, do some stuff for social media and content strategy and, most importantly, take care of the website on the front end side of things. Awesome. To kick off this conversation ball, what was the primary motivation for deciding it was time for 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 trying to keep up with everybody else, we...

...felt like it was time. We wanted to sort of sort of tear everything down and build it back up from stratch. You know how, as time passes, you may add things on here and there and change templates here there and all of a sudden end up with 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 this web redesign committee you form for this project? And why? Right, so, the issue of ownership is sort of want of government. So I kind of consider, you know, like no one and everyone owns it. So we we have the CMS content management system that allows all every department and and act administrative office to have control over their piece of the website. So we have a distributed model. All things considered, we will probably be moving to a more centralized model moving forward. We've found that, you know, that helps 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 web redesign committee is sort of a cross section of campus. There's faculty, there's people from our development office, people from the missions office, people from our sort of financial services and student support and we even have a student on the on 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 is knows what's going on and is brought into the process awesome. So let's talk about this initial scoping exercise you held that you found so helpful in getting all these 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 spring and 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 comes in, or what do we want to...

...do? And we actually have a group of Lans and friends of the college that meet once in a while to give us some advice, and one of their pieces of advice was to do scoping exercise, to do some initial research before the RFP to make sure that everybody'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 some research for us and then also do an on campus workshop with every web redesign committee, and what that did was allow everyone to understand why we're going through this exercise and how what the goals are. And also the workshop was incredibly valuable because it gave a scope for what was involved. So I live in the web world and understand what was going to happen, but this web redesign committee, they may look at the website every now and then or may update their content on the occasional basis, but there don't live and breathe it kind of in the same way. So this workshop was really valuable helping them understand that first we're going to do this and then we're going to look at some concepts and then we might see how...

...the contents going to fit into that and in the end we're going to have this design system that that allows us to have this great new website. Say, it was really valuable and also exposing some different pain points that that may come along and some understandings of what's out there. It was very much a chance to educate the web redesign committee on and where we are and where we need to go. And so what was partially the goal of that initial scoping exercise to not let it turn into this kind of spiral debate on what this I should look like and what the AII should look like. But it was really just here's the process, we've thought this through for no better term, kind of kind of defer to the process, but without kind of your initial bill going into that exercise. Yeah, totally. It definitely was very high level. It really helped us frame the RFP, helped, you know, US make sure that when we were putting 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 maybe most surprising takeaways from all these predesigned exercises,...

...coming from the voices of your stakeholders that you might not have gotten to without having done those exercises? Well, yeah, I think that, you know, in hied web there's always that sort of balance between marketing and information and transactional stuff. So, you know, the website serves many audiences and it can't be a hundred percent a marketing tool, depend on who you ask. So you know, we try to find that balance of putting our best foot forward but also providing the information that any audience may need. So one of the things that we came out of 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 their families, which seems obvious from a marketing side of point viewpoint, but isn't entirely 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 struggle to get there, or do you just...

...talk it through, or were their louder voices on this design committee that that kind of helped, you know, steamroll that idea down. Yeah, I would even hesitate. These were like steam roll. I think it was just, you know, based on the initial research, again, that value of having some research up front from various stakeholders, lums and it's current students and even some different bodies, that you just 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 mean it's not a marketing piece. I mean the value of having a robust and interesting faculty profile template is has a value. You know it's worthwhile. So you know, getting that faculty buy and like well, you need to help us if we can help you. So that kind of thing. And it was there any particular research that helped people in the committee kind of defer to the research in terms of, you know, what percentage of folks are perspective students versus current students who are how did the research help you kind of get buying on this process? But part of...

...it was was seen where we fit within, you know, the broader scope of things and taking a sort of a look around of what other schools are doing was helpful and then also just see that the specific feedback from our different stakeholder's about some maybe not so kind words about the current site and things like that, so that I'll help to sort of paint the picture for us. It's awesome. And now that you're in the design stage of this process, how have those kind of predesign exercises and steps you've already taken made this current part of the process easier? I think the biggest thing is it sort of reduced any surprises, not so much for me but for the rest of the committee. So we're actually in a in ten days we're going to have initial design concepts, which I'm very excited acause 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 of your billboard, right, but that's not where we want to start. We want to present some concepts that will sort of build on that educational foundation we try to give them. Of We're building a system, not just a home page, was supporting pages. So we want to have what redesign committee take a look at it, some internal pages...

...and start to understand how the different components of different pages will work together and how you can take things out and put things in, and so that modularity of sort of atomic design and a design 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 communication and so yeah, so that part's been really good for laying a strong foundation to build on. It's awesome. Awesome, Paul. Anything you've learned in the process that didn't feel like it was particularly high value or things that you do differently next time? Things I do differently next time? Well, it's a little bit surprised when the proposal started coming in from the RP. We didn't do an open RFP. We sort of targeted some different agencies that we wanted to work with and so we sort of left it open ended, intention intentionally, but the scope of proposals we got back was was interesting in that they all didn't necessarily address all of the things in the rfpiece. I guess that I could do one thing differently. would be maybe too we intentionally lessen the agns just to let them show us...

...what they are capable of. The perhaps 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 and took 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, you know, really thinking through the scope before calling on them. Right, they ming to take in your rb very loosely in terms of that's maybe what someone on their team thinks they want, but I'm not sure. And so they give ex something differently. Right, and you know, I don't know how many times you go through a redesign process. It doesn't happen very often, it certainly here, and so it's been interesting just for me to see all the bits and pieces and how they off it together. And and the biggest benefit, 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 why we're doing it, and so I think it just really lays the framework for success and that was one of the selling points of doing it. Is that is that so many of these projects get...

...sidetracked for numerous different reasons. So far, so good, really good, Paul. Any any next step advice for other institutions about to embark on this web design process? Where should they start first? Yeah, I mean, even if you don't go to an outside agency, to try to make sure that your committee is on the same page and has as a shared understanding of why why you're doing it. You know, we've chosen to sort of break it all down and build it up again. I know that there's different paths you can take. You know someone recently you know share. You know you can either do what we're doing and sort of build a new house, or you can put a fresh code of paint 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 to really may make sure that we are starting from zero and going to build something great. So, Paul, grateful for your time today. Well, what's the 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 my initial pees and then NAM and am years...

...ago as a Peace Corp volunteer in the 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 and in sharing the results of your process midstream, and we're excited to see the final product when it comes out. Pall Great. Yeah, thanks, it's been 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 helping colleges and universities thrive in this new education landscape, and Helix has just published the second edition of their enrollment growth playbook with fifty percent brand new content on how institutions can solve today's most pressing enrollment growth challenges. Downloaded today for free at Helix Educationcom. Playbook. You've been listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the shown itunes or your favorite podcast player. Thank...

...you so much for listening. Until next time.

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