2013 Conference Uncategorized

Your Mobile Strategy: More Walk, Less Talk.

Mobile web is the biggest tech trend ever. Like, EVER. It’s bigger than radio. Bigger than TV.

It’s the biggest tech trend E-V-E-R.

If you learned nothing else from the HighEdWeb 13 “Your Mobile Strategy: More Walk, Less Talk” session, Drew Hill (@drewl), Web Director at Binghamton University wants you to understand this simple fact.

As mobile devices become de rigueur for internet use, the demand for mobile-friendly content is expanding at a rapid pace. Yet many schools still haven’t put in nearly enough time, thought, or resources into their mobile web strategies.

“I’m finding that colleges and universities are struggling with mobilizing their business models in general,” says Hill. “They are struggling to create responsive, mobile-friendly websites, struggling with their entire mobile ‘ecosystem,’ struggling with mobile-driven marketing, and they’re struggling to embrace the disruptive innovations beginning to impact their businesses because of mobility.

“Because of these struggles my message to high ed is simple and direct—get going now! You’re already behind the curve.”

To research and develop the mobile strategy at Binghamton University, Hill and his colleagues broke the process down into three chunks: the demand, the situation, and the supply.

The Demand

When analyzing their site analytics, Binghamton noticed a 6.27% increase in mobile visits over the last academic year – and a more than 10% increase since June.

The team also looked at industry trends, and Hill cited some eye-opening predictions:

By 2017 …

  • Mobile internet traffic will be 7x what it is today

  • Nearly 1/2 of IP traffic will be from non-pc devices

  • Internet access will extend beyond the power grid

And by 2014 (a mere 85 days after his presentation)

  • ½ of internet users will never use a pc

The Situation

Hill and company then evaluated the current mobile landscape, and came to the realization that website designs now need to take cross-device usage into account. A prospective student might check out your school and register for more info on their laptop, but then later sign up for a visit on their mobile device. Today’s websites need to provide a great, user-friendly experience regardless of delivery device. Therefore, designers must think about touch, gesture, and cross device usage when building pages. To see how gestures might play out within your design, Hill suggests

Hill’s team also noted that while we will see a long shift to HTML5 from native apps, UX apps WILL remain strong in the short run. (Gartner Group) Because of that a choice needed to be made, develop apps? Or go mobile-friendly? Hill considered it a decision between reach vs. rich; you’ll have more reach by going mobile friendly, but an app can give the user a richer experience.

The supply

Opting for the greatest reach, the Binghamton team chose to prioritize a mobile site before apps. They elected to create one responsive web site, dynamically adjusting, with one set of content to maintain.

To fully leverage the responsive nature of the build, the team approached content as service, or as Karen McGrane, author of Content Strategy for Mobile calls it, “adaptive content.” McGrane cites NPR as a good example to follow: their editors craft different headlines that are optimized for different screen sizes.

Getting buy-in from your organization for this new approach to design and content can be challenge, of course. To get everyone on board and up-to-speed, Hill asserts that you must position your university’s web operation as a “Center of Excellence.”

YOU are the expert. YOU are the leader. YOU are in control. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t seek input from your administration and key stakeholders – absolutely you should. But you need to communicate that you are the expert.

Hill suggests that educating your executive leaders – and making them early adopters of your mobile strategy – can be a great way to get the rest of your organization’s support.

For those who like to plan every little thing every step of the way, Hill says don’t worry if you don’t have everything worked out from the very beginning – it’s ok to figure some things out as you go. Designing a responsive site is incredibly complex, so Hill suggests you settle on some major breakpoints in your project and don’t be afraid to adapt and adjust details around them.

To execute Binghamton new mobile strategy, Hill’s team started by rebuilding its highest-level pages first (the most traffic and political “must dos”), then put in a process to ensure that any new pages going forward were built to be responsive. They then leveraged their OmniUpdate CMS to find and replace code to migrate the remaining site content.

Because mobile technology will only continue to grow and change in ways we’re only beginning to understand, planning to adapt and revise your strategy in the future is critical.

To keep their mobile strategy on target for the future, Binghamton president formed The President’s Mobile Task Force, charged with addressing problems, opportunities and solutions; approving and regulating all apps; directing, defining and approving all mobile content strategies; and ensuring the University’s mobile technology remains current.

The Take-Aways

  • Be the center of excellence

  • Make some choices and get started

  • Make early adopters your champions

  • Participate, facilitate, and allow discussion

  • Adjust as you go, continually improve!


Hill gives a hat tip to:

Dave Olsen @dmolsen

Peter Anglea @peteranglea

Luke Wrobelowski @lukew


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By Liz Gross

Liz Gross is the Director of Campus Sonar. Her professional super powers include designing and analyzing market research, applying social media strategy to multiple areas of the business, explaining difficult concepts in simple language, and using social listening to develop consumer insights and assist with reputation management. She received her Ph.D. in Leadership for the Advancement of Learning and Service in Higher Education at Cardinal Stritch University.