Consistency, Performance, and Accessibility: Southeastern Community College Redesigns Website with Recruitment in Mind
OU Campus eliminated inconsistencies in design and presentation from one web page to another, giving the website a streamlined, consistent look.
Implementing OU Campus automated the school’s manual processes, allowing the IT department, with its limited resources, to spend more time focusing on critical university projects instead of maintaining the website.
Because OU Campus is straightforward and easy to use, content contributors with no technical background are able to sign in and be productive immediately.
“We are a small school that dreams big,” said Cody Ferris, Assistant to Dean of Career and Technical Education (CTE) and Dean of Arts and Sciences at Southeastern Community College (SCC) in West Burlington, Iowa. That’s why the school chose OmniUpdate as their web content management system (CMS) provider: They needed a partner that could help the school implement and realize their website goals of consistency, performance, and accessibility.
Founded in 1920, Southeastern Community College serves 3,000 students in five locations throughout Iowa. Students can earn Associate of Arts or Science in one of 33 programs from business management and administration to automotive technology.
Several problems demanded immediate attention. The first was disorganization. SCC’s unwieldly website was cobbled together, with most information online in unsearchable PDF format. A lack of design consistency, with content appearing in different places and formats on different pages, contributed to the chaos.
“The information we had was pretty piecemeal and patchwork, and it was stored all over the place with no real organization,” said Ferris, who was put in charge of the website project.
Another problem for the web team was the inability for both content contributors and site visitors to perform an accurate search for information on the existing website. Over the years, various programmers had named fields differently within the college’s existing database. Users could pull together independent pieces of information, but there was no way to tag or change the data, and they could only review the compiled information by uploading it as a PDF. “It was complicated, and data would often get lost,” said Jeff Ebbing, Director of Marketing and Communications.
The third issue was the lack of web accessibility standards. The school was out of accessibility compliance, but little could be done because of the way content was stored in the existing Access database.
Together, these problems seemed almost insurmountable for a small web team overwhelmed by the number of tasks requiring so many manual fixes. Implementing OU Campus provided the SCC team with immediate solutions.
We can do everything we need to with OU Campus and more, without needing a super-attentive staff that’s up to the minute on coding, features, functionality, and design.Cody Ferris, Southeastern Community College
During implementation, the SCC team started using the CMS tools within OU Campus to order pages in a searchable hierarchy, eliminating the confusion and disorganization of content. “OU Campus completely streamlined our data so that it’s not only easy to add new information to the site, but it’s also easy for both content contributors and users to find,” Ebbing said.
Additionally, the school’s newly redesigned web pages added structure to content and design, doing away with prior consistency issues. “We now have consistency in format so that the presentation of information is comprehensible and easy to find on our website,” Ferris said.
Implementing OU Campus also solved SCC’s problem with accessibility. Using the accessibility tool built into OU Campus, SCC’s content creators now know upon publishing a page whether it meets accessibility standards—a feature that brought SCC into compliance for web accessibility.
OmniUpdate is always ahead of the curve. For example, if there is a new accessibility rule, they go ahead and build a check into the software. Because of their expertise and market knowledge, they are solving problems for us before we even know what the problems are. It is extremely valuable to have resident experts on hand who stay current with trends.Jeff Ebbing , Southeastern Community College
With OU Campus fully deployed, the SCC team discovered that their website workflow decreased substantially. “OU Campus automated manual processes that we had to do in the past,” Ferris said. This freed up time for the team to focus on priorities that had, before OU Campus, been delayed indefinitely.
The SCC team has been pleased with OU Campus’ ease of use. “The learning curve is not too steep, so the average person can come in and gain a basic familiarity and be up and running pretty quick,” Ebbing said. “This is important to us because some of our users only work in OU Campus a handful of times each year. With OU Campus, they can get in to their web pages, make changes, and get out quickly.”
With limited resources and a small development/web team, SCC has also benefitted from OmniUpdate’s higher education focus. “We hoped that by working with a company that specializes in higher ed, we could capitalize on the focus and experience that they bring to the table—and that’s what we got with OmniUpdate,” Ebbing said. “OmniUpdate is always ahead of the curve. For example, if there is a new accessibility rule, they go ahead and build a check into the software. Because of their expertise and market knowledge, they are solving problems for us before we even know what the problems are. It is extremely valuable to have resident experts on hand who stay current with trends.”
Above all, SCC was looking for more than a CMS vendor—they wanted a partner. “We are an extremely small shop, and while we have a decent understanding of websites and HTML, we don’t have the time to devote to become experienced users,” Ebbing said. “Because OmniUpdate is focused on higher education, their people are experts—we count on them to do our heavy-lifting.”
We are an extremely small shop, and while we have a decent understanding of websites and HTML, we don’t have the time to devote to become experienced users. Because OmniUpdate is focused on higher education, their people are experts—we count on them to do our heavy-lifting.Jeff Ebbing , Southeastern Community College
SCC is growing, with new and upgraded buildings and classrooms on campus and new technologies for students. They are working to increase enrollment, especially by attracting students in their local area. “We simply want to respond to the workforce needs of our area,” said Ferris. “Most of our students want to stay here. Our goal is to provide a big, state-of-the-art education to people in our smaller area.”
With OU Campus, SCC now has a dynamic, fresh website that reflects the school’s focus and makes it easy for administrators and developers to keep its content current. “Our IT department is fabulous, but they serve all of our campuses and have little time to take on new assignments,” Ebbing said. “That’s where OmniUpdate comes in. Whenever we have an issue or are trying something new, their customer support team is at the ready. They respond immediately and are always patient with our questions. Yes, we probably try to do too many projects at one time, but that’s what happens when you want to do great things.”
If you are a small school considering a website redesign and CMS implementation, Ferris has two bits of advice:
- Have a well-defined committee. When we started, there was no one person spearheading the project, and we had too many people with differing opinions. As a result, we were in the development stage far longer than we should have been. In hindsight, it would have worked better to have a smaller selection committee in place.
- Don’t try to implement everything at once. At first, we tried to do the website and handbook and catalog, and it was overwhelming. We finally divided the project into phases and created small groups of five-to-six people to work on each phase. This made it much easier to handle such a comprehensive project.
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