Achieving Reputation Outcomes on the Web

Presenters: Ty Glasgow, Jeff Johnson, Big Bad Interactive

Ty Glasgow

Web strategy

Brand and Web strategy have a major impact in all areas. It needs to matter.


  • Application volume.
  • Acceptance rates.
  • Yield.

Academic reputation

  • US News rankings
  • Research grants.
  • Faculty recruiting.


  • Community.
  • Fundraising.
  • Endowment.

Typical outcomes


  • Increase yield > identify and overcome objections > accepted student site (restricted), remove silos through cross-referencing all content, differentiate.


  • Increase alumni engagement > cross-organizational interation > prospective student referrals, internships, contextual giving modules.

Academic reputation

  • Increase US News peer assessment, recruit faculty > channels for peer audiences > scholarly accomplishments, department sites, accurate and consistent information.

Elements of a successful site


  • Before working on a Web strategy, does the institution understand its core business objectives and target audiences? That comes first.


  • Intuitive, manifest model, easy to decode, works to enable the scent of information.


  • Strong/differentiating presentation of the brand and content. Compels, informs, guides user experience.


  • Content management, governance, ongoing development, long-term support.


  • Macro: outcomes measured against relevant business objectives. Micro: campaign/tactical-based measures.

Myth busters

  • All information should be 3 clicks away from the home page.
  • Usability “gurus” say …
  • Award-winning sites are effective sites.
  • Happy users equal positive outcomes.
  • You have less than 8 seconds to win the user.
  • “M-TV” look.
  • Be entertaining to prospective students — provide the right window into the experience, but don’t feel a need to entertain.
  • Prospective student link — the whole site should be for prospective students.
  • Admissions sites drive Admissions outcomes — the whole site should support admissions.
  • Centralized versus decentralized — false dichotomy.
  • CMS will solve all my problems.
  • My institution’s Web presence can’t be tamed — if you want to participate in the design discussion, you need to have participate in the strategy discussion.

What not to do

  • US News logo on home page.
  • Reinvent Facebook (current students and recent grads) or MySpace (prospects) or LinkedIn (for alumni) — learn how to coexist with these.
  • Use blogs for natural communities (like current students and alumni) but not prospects (there’s no natural, existing affinity).
  • Podcast interesting faculty and guest speakers (for current students and alumni).
  • The penitentiary look for photography (no people, buildings).
  • Home page news and events with more than 3 or 4 items each — separate upcoming announcements from past reports.
  • Fly-out menus — eliminate them!
  • Too many “give here” or “apply now” buttons.
  • Quick links on the home page — extraordinarily bad solution for poor information architecture. Very high use of search also indicates poor information architecture.


Providence College

  • Outcome: increase male enrollment.

University of the Puget Sound

  • Why major in liberal arts?

Holy Cross

  • Why liberal arts?

Manhattanville College

  • Click on Now@Mville for streaming video.
  • Theme line: What happens here matters.

Suffolk University

  • The key to unversal navigation is understanding those overarching areas that are relevant to everyone, to tell their story. Continues through to schools.

Five key take aways

  • Think Web governance and organization — nothing else works without this.
  • Think cutting across organizational boundaries to present information.
  • Think multidisciplinary — develop a strategy first — then integrate IA, interface design, and functionality.
  • Think whole, not parts — the biggest leap towards driving Admissions, Advancement, and Academic reputation outcomes
  • Think outcomes — it’s why you’re doing this.

Points to consider

  • Does your Web site feel like your campus?
  • We try to focus on the revenue generating audiences, and encourage the smaller successes with current student and faculty who are often very task oriented.
  • To the extent you can keep within your .edu domain.
  • Use “major and minor” instead of “departments and programs.”
  • Make sure you have a strong oversight committee and integrated implementation group before you start anything complex.