It's no secret that redesigning a website can be a little intimidating. But add hundreds of content contributors in 75 counties across the state, subtract hours of wasted work, multiply by two redesign efforts, and you've got yourself one tricky equation. Digital Media Program Director Amy Cole and her team at the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service managed to solve this problem and successfully train more than 300 content contributors to simplify the process of managing web content after executing not one, but two redesigns! She shared her story at OUTC16.
For more than 100 years, Extension Service has provided hands-on training to the public in the areas of agriculture, raising livestock, and other at-home duties. In more recent years, the goal has been to take the traditional hands-on training and provide it for free on the web. Getting this information online was a huge opportunity for the university. It was much more cost-effective than travelling throughout the state to train, and it allowed a greater range of access to people in need. However, there were a few obstacles they had to overcome first.
For about ten years, the existing Extension Service website was static. It was made up of simple, crowded, bulleted pages with different URLs for each page - and it wasn't responsive. Plus, with only one person adding and editing content for all of the site's pages and content contributors submitting change requests via email, the wait time to get content updated was staggering.
The first attempt at a website redesign was met with some serious complications. In the middle of the process, after hundreds of people had spent hours being trained in the new content management system (CMS), the CMS vendor announced that the product was being discontinued. All of the time, effort, and manpower that the Extension Service had spent on the project was wasted.
After the failed first attempt, campus constituents were skeptical about attempting another redesign, but the university pushed forward. The Extension Service partnered with Donoughe Design to re-redesign the site and with OmniUpdate to help implement the new design in the OU Campus CMS.
The team came up with a governance plan to organize the site and its contributors. They created a Governance Pyramid showing digital media team members' roles and organized content contributors so that one person wasn't editing and adding content to every page in the CMS. All content had to be research-based, non-biased, and written by specialists, and all contributors were mapped to content areas and assigned a page.
After the launch of the redesigned site in 2014, there were still a couple bugs to address. Site loading speeds were a little slow and when OU Campus version 10 was released, they had to re-train CMS users in the new version.
To combat these challenges, Amy and her team created a training blog that content contributors could reference. The blog included recorded trainings, how-to guides, governance and workflow info, and much more.
They also instated an intermediate training program that prevented contributors from having to repeat trainings and assisted them in growing their skill base. Since staff is located around the state, they based most of their training in webinar/screen sharing format using a web-based meeting software. Trainings were recorded for anyone who could not attend live.
In the end, the Extension Service team was able to produce a useful and responsive website that met the needs of the content contributors.
Redesigning a website can be tricky. But the Extension Service team proved that no matter how many content contributors you have or how many obstacles are thrown your way, a redesign is well worth it!