According to a 2016 Hanover Research report, colleges and universities are hyper-focused on creating a personalized, digital experience across all platforms—which often means a redesign of their website.
Undertaking a major website redesign is a lot of work, but the results can have far-reaching effects across all departments and areas of your campus. That’s why making sure your web content management system (CMS) can handle the new technologies and features included in a redesign is imperative.
Not sure where to start?
If you are unsure whether you need an upgrade to your existing CMS or a new CMS altogether, consider these factors:
Don’t confuse your website with your content management system. A website is your institution’s online presence. A CMS, on the other hand, is the tool used to organize, create, and manage the digital content that makes up that online presence.
In many cases, the redesign conversation begins with inconsistent branding, lack of responsiveness, inefficiency, and an outdated and bloated website. After deciding how the website should look and perform, the question then becomes what technologies are needed to power the website as desired. These are two very different questions, but if your institution is committed to investing in its digital presence, you’ll need a CMS that is flexible, extensible, and powerful enough to fulfill your new website’s requirements.
Consider organization. Look for a CMS that separates your content from design. This means that your content is stored in one centralized location to use in whatever format you wish, and the “design” files that make up your site are stored in another. This type of organization allows you to update your design without having the content affected. It also enhances speed, performance, flexibility, and search optimization.
Some systems make it a little too easy for content editors to change your website’s design—which can create brand inconsistency, or worse, new accessibility problems. Separation of content from design helps avoids this issue. Content editors can make as many editorial changes as desired without compromising the integrity of your site’s design.
Anticipate future growth. The goal of every institution is to attract more students and increase enrollment. To do this, your website’s content and design must stay current—after all, you are trying to attract the world’s most technologically-savvy generation of students. This means that, on average, you can expect to refresh or completely update your website design every 3 to 5 years.
Consequently, it makes good fiscal sense to choose a system that can grow with your site’s needs. As new technologies come along, an extensible, flexible CMS should have the ability to integrate seamlessly with innovative systems, add-ons, and plugins.
Make it easy to use. While technologists have expertise that can inform your website redesign, remember that the end user is usually not a techie. Most are communicators and administrators with multiple responsibilities. They simply want to get content up and in front of their prospective audiences as fast as possible so they can move on to their next tasks.
If you find that a redesign is going to further complicate this process, it might be time to shop for a new CMS first. Look for a content management system that gives you the ability define a framework and set limits, while making it easy for users to create and publish pages.
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