Karine Joly No Comments

Cade WhitbournCade Whitbourn, Web Operations Manager at Charles Sturt University in Australia, is one of the 12 presenters of the 2019 Higher Ed WEBSITES Conference.

In this 3-question interview, Cade tells us about the worst and best web trends in higher ed, a great tool and shares a top 3 of favorite higher ed websites.

1) What are the worst and best design trends used on higher ed websites?

It’s not a trend so much, but we still see a lot of bad content where universities like to talk about themselves in the most complex language possible full of jargon and important sounding phrases.

And it’s not necessarily university-specific, but there is a lot of content we see where it’s just the organisation or business unit talking about themselves, expecting the user to find their own way by interpreting the information the best they can. It would be nice to see more higher education institutions taking the time to write and present content to suit the needs of their audiences.

I’m a fan of a highly streamlined and consolidated information architecture (IA) that results in only a few top level menu categories.

The fewest I’ve seen is 3, with Southern Cross University, University of Tasmania and others. The emerging norm seems to be about 4. Websites that take this approach generally also give prominent placement to search and use a very targeted secondary global navigation with entry points for key audience groups (prospective and current students, staff, etc.)
This trend in higher ed websites recognises that you should not mix topics and audiences types into your IA and provide a tailored entry point for each of your primary audiences. The website of the University of Tasmania also does this very well.

2019 Higher Ed Websites Conference

2) What are your top 3 favorite higher ed websites?

I’m going to focus on other Australian universities, because they are not only our direct competitors but also provide web services and information similar to us.

Our team has been looking particularly at the prospective and current student websites recently, as we have projects underway in those areas.

University of Tasmania
I think UTAS is doing a lot of things right, with a clear bold design, a deceptively simple IA and rich browsing features.

Griffith University
The public web presence of Griffith University is impressive with the ability to personalize content, and streamline the application process based on courses you have viewed. Their student portal (behind a login) also offers a great student experience, with a good mix of personalized features, relevant messaging, progress indicators, and timely content.

I like how USQ allows you to browse by careers, and then offers appropriate corresponding courses. This really is taking a user focus. They also offer a customized “career explorer” tool.QUT also has very effective personalisation features.

Starting university is a daunting experience for most people. We are fans of institutions that put a content focus into providing personalized and comprehensive “getting started” checklists. Swinburne University of Technology does this well. This is what will make students feel confident that they’re ready to study.

3) What’s your favorite tool for web work?

We are getting a lot of mileage out of GatherContent for managing our content development workflow.

The idea of separating the words from design and layout is very effective in an age where many people consider themselves web designers. It helps make people realize that we need to get the content right, regardless of how it looks on a page. It also allows us to track and see at a glance the progress of our content development for each new site we build, and so we can plan resources and subsequent activities more accurately.

As part of our project management framework, we routinely enable Usabilla (customer satisfaction and user feedback) at key points for all new websites delivered. For example, during a recent homepage redesign process we gathered over 150 pieces of feedback from our users to inform the redesign and go-live process. Using Usabilla helps to embed feedback as an integral part of the design process, and remove the friction between UX, Development and Design. The integration with JIRA means that feedback is routed directly to the right team member ensuring that action is taken quickly and efficiently.

A conference focusing on higher ed WEBSITES?

The 2019 Higher Ed WEBSITES Conference is a must-attend event 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.

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