Midland College’s Smart Start for a Website Redesign
Four thousand disorganized and dated web pages are now streamlined and organized into a 1,000-page content hierarchy with 100% brand consistency.
Campus-wide disbursement of content creation and updates with content contributors who learned OU Campus in 30-minute training sessions.
An attractive site features a guided pathway to direct students toward their interests and field of study.
In 2011, Midland College faced a double dilemma: Not only was their existing website slow, dated, and disorganized, but their existing content management system (CMS) was anything but easy to manage. “It was subpar,” said Dan Buckley, Midland College webmaster. “We really liked the idea of a site with guided pathways that directed students down a path to their field, but our CMS was so bad that when we tried to revamp our site, it didn’t work very well.”
Midland College provides higher education, community services, and cultural enrichment to the Midland, Texas community. The school provides an array of community college options as well as two bachelor’s degrees to 5,000 students each semester.
To exacerbate issues, the system would get “so bogged down that sometimes we couldn’t edit,” Dan continued. “We often had to try two or three different browsers, and then we would save our work only to discover that it didn’t save.”
There were also lingering problems dating back to when the existing CMS was launched. The departments managing various parts of the website were so fragmented that Midland College ended up with a confusing mixture of old and new pages. “When we decided to invest in a new site, we wanted to do it from scratch—content, CMS, and everything else—in part because of the previous launch problems,” Dan said.
The school formed a large committee of faculty, students, IT, and administrative personnel with close ties to decision-makers. Dan investigated several companies to better understand trends in education website design, available CMS features, and pricing.
Next, Dan met with the committee to narrow down a list of wants and needs to include in a request for proposal. The committee also took the time to consolidate their proposal so that they could evaluate both design firms and content management systems at the same time—a step they hoped would make the overall process go smoother. “It’s smart to start with the CMS,” Dan stated. “To invest in a new design and not have it work with the CMS would have been a mess.”
It’s smart to start with the CMS. To invest in a new design and not have it work with the CMS would have been a mess.Dan Buckley, Webmaster, Midland College
The Midland College committee appreciated that OmniUpdate’s bid included bids from several design companies in various price ranges, giving Midland control over design and cost. Ultimately, the committee chose a design company and OmniUpdate included them in an on-site presentation demonstrating the OU Campus CMS. “That presentation blew us away,” remembered Dan. “OU Campus was obviously so much better than the other options. It hit the high points of what we wanted and gave us the flexibility and scalability that we needed. There’s not much I have to play around with because OU Campus pretty much does everything we need.”
Midland College chose the software-as-a-service (SaaS) option of OU Campus because the committee felt it was one less thing for the school to worry about. “It just changed everything,” Dan said. “With the OU Campus SaaS model, I’m no longer spending half my time fixing a broken system. We can concentrate on what needs to be done and not worry about whether the system will even work.”
With the OU Campus SaaS model, I’m no longer spending half my time fixing a broken system. We can concentrate on what needs to be done and not worry about whether the system will even work.Dan Buckley, Webmaster, Midland College
While the design company began work, Midland College’s committee pulled together content. “One of the most difficult things was getting people to respond,” said Dan. “That’s why it was so important to have the backing of our president and vice president. When we had problems, we’d go to them and they’d intervene on our behalf.”
Dan and the committee budgeted a year for the redesign, but with a design snafu and issues with gathering content, the project grew to two and a half years. “I’d caution others that you should plan for roadblocks along the way,” said Dan. “Once the designs were completed and provided to OmniUpdate, things moved right on schedule.” Throughout the OU Campus implementation process, Dan and a small team worked closely with the OmniUpdate team, making sure that the editable regions in the templates reflected how Midland wanted CMS users to interact with the site.
Dan also said that problems will arise after migration that you can’t anticipate. “I filled out a lot of support tickets at first, because even with training, there were things I didn’t know,” Dan said. “OmniUpdate was nothing short of fantastic. They solved 98% of my issues in a responsive and quick manner. Even today, I rarely put in a support ticket, but when I do, I usually have a response within an hour.”
Because of the former site’s previous issues, Dan and the team wanted control of adding and editing pages. “Consistency and control really got lost with the old site,” Dan said. “It had ballooned to more than 4,000 pages. OU Campus has a logical file structure that makes organization simple. We have meticulously paired down the site to about 1,000 pages, which allows us to delete stale content efficiently.”
Contributors with site access in OU Campus can expect to be up and working in less than half an hour. “OU Campus is intuitive to edit. We haven’t come across anyone yet who isn’t able to learn how to use it in a short time,” Dan said.
Using XSLT 3.0, OU Campus provides a powerful and flexible templating solution for the college’s website. “I didn’t know how to use XSLT at first, but now I can edit whenever I need to. Ninety-nine percent of the time, we never even look at it. There is rarely a need to since everything we need is already in OU Campus.”
Now that Midland College is managed with OU Campus, all stakeholders have been pleased with Midland College’s new website. “We are spoiled!” Dan said. “Previously, our site was unattractive, but now it’s intuitive and eye-catching."
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