Jessie Groll, Web Developer at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, is one of the 12 presenters of the 2018 Higher Ed WEBSITES Conference.
In this 4-question interview, Jessie tells us about the best website advice ever, the most challenging part of the job of a higher ed web pro, a great web tool and shares a top 3 of favorite higher ed websites.
1) What is the best advice you’ve ever been given about higher ed websites?
Keep it simple, stupid.
While not specific to higher ed websites, these are words to live by! The amount of information that a student has to process at any stage in their higher ed jouney can be overwhelming.
Focusing in on the details that matter and making sure they are clear and straightforward helps everyone. It leads to better design, navigation, comprehension, accessibility, and results.
2) How do you cope with the most challenging part of your job?
Presenting tuition and fees in a way that is both easy to understand and comprehensive is a struggle.
There are so many factors to account for to answer the question of, “how much will this cost.” We’ve implemented a tuition and fees cost estimator that covers tuition, fees, housing, and meal plans presenting straightforward answers for students, and it is great. But that information still has to be re-presented on the site and often in more than one place. We’re getting better at centralizing and reusing content to reduce the number of places data has to be updated.
3) What is your favorite tool?
My favorite Google DevTool is Google Lighthouse, Chrome Browser. The quick but detailed report includes stats on performance, accessibility, best practices, and SEO, giving you a nice snapshot of your page.
It is Google, so there are specific recommendations and links to more information so you can quickly take action. There is a lot of detail provided, but the overall scores for each section make it easy to see if you are making progress. Since it is not just a list of errors, you see where you’ve passed audits as well, which is encouraging!
4) What are your top 3 favorite higher ed websites?
- University of Maryland
I love the huge, full-bleed photographs that are used for the different sections on the homepage. And the flyouts that include news and events, event athletic results, depending on the section is fun and attention-getting.
- Oberlin College and Conservatory
This site is clean, bright, and open. They make great use of visuals and color balanced by negative space. The imagery and messaging is very focused on the student perspective, and the Oberlin Blogs give, as their site says, an “unfiltered” view of their campus and culture.
- Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Shameless bragging. Just a couple of years ago, this site was an outdated, fixed design that didn’t reflect the university’s visual identity. Through a completely in-house project done by our web team, design studio, and IT, we updated the front end from the ground up. It is responsive, inline with our brand and more accessible than ever before. The CMS was updated at the same time and we improved the tools to build pages, adding more flexibility and options for content creators and editors.
A conference focusing on higher ed WEBSITES?
The 2018 Higher Ed WEBSITES Conference (now available on-demand!) is a must for higher ed web professionals and teams looking for inspiration, ideas and best practices to kick off their summer projects.
Read below what a few of your higher ed colleagues who attended the 1st edition of the Higher Ed WEBSITES Conference say about the experience.