Creating a Cohesive Website Experience from Scratch #MCS3

Jennifer Pope

When Jennifer started her position with Rutgers University College of Arts and Sciences, the website was the wild west of fragmented websites. She set out to tame the west in four key phases.

Phase 1: Research and Development
Talk to stakeholders about the needs or changes for the website. Make these meetings one-on-one and try to avoid groups (gets political quick). Also assess the varying skills of development of the people working on the site and the content needs for the various departments. Its like the Three Little Pigs, they’ve built these houses, some are built poorly, some are decent, and you’re the big bad wolf and determine how strong they are. You knock out the weak ones.

Educate the stakeholders this is an ongoing process. Content is constantly changing. This isn’t a redesign and forget it.

Phase 2: Macro changes
Rutgers had a showdown of the CMS. It is important to consider who will be using the website from an editor prospective and visitor prospective. WordPress was chosen and implemented with migrating each department one at a time. All the ugly ducklings became beautiful swans.

It is key to empower editors as much as possible. Rutgers offered workshops on how to use WordPress, best practice tips for the we, and how to write for the web. Advance workshops were offered on using widgets, menus, and tables.

This was a double-edged sword. The editors were a little too empowered and the site started turning into a mess. Further training was needed to help rein them in.

Phase Three: Micro changes
Phase 2 was successful, but much of the work was manual. Phase three is fine tuning and and following the NPR model of create once, publish everywhere “COPE”. Rutgers started using RSS feeds for news and .ics for calendar imports/exports.

This was also the time to integrate social media, better content, and utilizing interns to help bridge their physical content to digital.

Phase Four: Maintenance
Keep the ship running. The waterfall of content is flowing from creating at a single source and having it trickle to all the appropriate spots on the site. Rutgers moved from RSS feeds to APIs to streamline their process. They now follow a yearly review of all content.