Well, Here We Go Again!

Old UMW Site Going AwayNew fiscal year, new job, new office, new Web site! I stopped posting to this blog over a year ago out of fear — of what, I’m not sure at this point, but let’s just say I didn’t feel I was organizationally positioned to have an opinion on anything. And me, without an opinion, is simply an unreasonable request ๐Ÿ™‚

So here I am, back as the University Webmaster and in fighting form. Once again, we will embark on a much-needed re-design of our now woefully out-of-date, tired, and increasingly unsightly Web design and technology. I designed all of it, so I’m entitled to say when it isn’t working anymore and — whoa! It isn’t working anymore. Ripe tomatoes come my way on a daily basis, and thank goodness I have low self-esteem — otherwise, it would really get to me ๐Ÿ˜‰

The web has come a long way since I first began working on the UMW Web site in 2001. More folks have a very critical stake in what happens with the site, and our process needs to be transparent. To that end, the requisite committees and workgroups are in the planning stages, dedicated to wrangling this now enormous sprawling site (18,000+ active pages) into a coherent, compelling and differentiating communications tool. And no site design would be complete without consideration of the magnitude of the Tsunami-like UMW Blogs environment that is sweeping the country, capturing hearts, curing diseases, and finding lost puppies nationwide. A richness ofย  mashup opportunities awaits us all, no doubt.

For now, I am examining years of Google Analytics reports to see how the site has been used to date, where we are falling short (in quantitative terms), where we need to devote more attention, where well-intentioned content may need to be jettisoned, and other things you can learn only from real-world numbers.

If any of you have used Google Analytics, you know how overwhelming it can be. Also, it lends itself to an SEO model that cannot be applied easily to a site so broad as UMW’s. So, after a discussion and some awesome advice from the brilliant Martha Burtis, I’m going to wrangle the data to narrow down the site’s success (or lack thereof) in achieving specific institutional goals, starting with Admissions activity. Recruiting the best and brightest prospective students, afterall, will be a key driver for the new site architecture and design.

In this space, I will be posting my progress in this regard. I also welcome input from everyone (polite input, of course!). I am particularly interested in how others have applied Google Analytics data, or site metrics in general, to changes in Web design or content organization. There will be a new poll here weekly asking you to weigh in on issues regarding the existing Web site. See this week’s poll to the left.

I hope that this design effort will reflect our growing culture at UMW of open discussion, transparent process, customer service, and high-quality work. See you all along the road!