Emily Mayock, Assistant Vice President, Online and Internal Communications at Case Western Reserve University, is one of the 12 presenters of the 2018 Higher Ed WEBSITES Conference.
In this 4-question interview, Emily 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?
This wasn’t exactly advice, but rather some criticism that has pushed us to work harder to tell Case Western Reserve University’s story.
In the midst of stakeholder interviews for a redesign, someone told us that if you swapped out our logo and colors for another university’s, no one would even question it.
At first, I was slightly offended—but then I realized it was, with a few minor exceptions, absolutely true. That made me realize we needed to do so much more than create a beautiful, eye-catching website: we needed to create a beautiful, eye-catching website that is uniquely Case Western Reserve.
That may sound obvious, but it can be hard in higher education. Many of us are “selling” essentially the same product: an on-campus educational experience.
So we had to dig, question and prod to uncover precisely what our differentiators are, and how we could show and tell them in both subtle and overt ways. That’s driven our team in every project since.
2) How do you cope with the most challenging part of your job?
For our team (as I’m sure is the case with many), we struggle with a decentralized environment with hundreds of content creators who have varying levels of skill, desire or time to maintain their websites. Seeing the inconsistency and errors across hundreds of different sites is incredibly frustrating, discouraging and, at times, embarrassing.
So I’ve had to learn to triage.
What’s most critical to allowing the university to succeed with its overall mission?
That gets first priority.
And, then I have to let go of the rest. All websites are important to someone, but they can’t all be important to my team. I can’t allow us to get sucked down the rabbit hole of fixing everything, or else we won’t be able to innovate and improve in areas that are high-impact.
3) What is your favorite tool?
The first two allow us to communicate and stay on track—and reduce the number of meetings required, which is always important. The third helps us find and fix errors on websites—whether links, spelling or accessibility—and it helps with the triaging of web tasks.
Are we seeing that a link to our apply page is broken and has been clicked on 200 times in the past two days? That needs to be fixed ASAP!
Is there a spelling error on a page that gets a couple of visits per day? In an ideal world, we’d fix that too—but we just can’t.
Siteimprove helps us see what’s wrong, and then prioritize what we need to fix.
4) What are your top 3 favorite higher ed websites?
- The Juilliard School
I’m in love with the Juilliard website: the opening videos, the dramatic imagery and the day-in-the-life articles. I normally despise websites that have audio, but for them it works so effortlessly. This is truly a website that really couldn’t be anyone else’s—you know immediately where you are, and what makes a Juilliard education stand out.
- Princeton University Undergraduate Admissions
I’m also a huge fan of the redesigned Princeton University undergraduate admission website: It’s clean yet still packs a ton of information onto the page, and also gives you a distinct sense of who, what and where they are.
- Johns Hopkins University
I’ve always really liked the Johns Hopkins website. They were one of the first universities I can recall doing the large, dramatic videos on the homepage, and a lot of the interactions on that website are really great. I also love their degree sorter—not an easy task to accomplish with so many degree options.
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.