Decide Who Decides

This entire guide is worthless if department decision-makers fail to make their website a priority. That does not mean every decision about what content to create, how prominently to feature it, and when to take it down needs to be made by the department head. Rather, the department head needs to empower specific individuals to make needed content decisions on their own and take the appropriate actions associated with that responsibility.

What is more, those empowered must be given adequate freedom (of time, authority, and even workload) to seize the reins of the department website at a level that will allow them to fully implement the suggestions included in this guide.

Organize Content Via Card Sorting

Usabality.gov defines Card Sorting as:

“… a method used to help design or evaluate the information architecture of a site. In a card sorting session, participants organize topics from your website into categories that make sense to them. Participants may also help you label these groups. Card sorting may involve physical cards or pieces of paper, or it may be accomplished with one of several online card-sorting software tools."

Card sorting will help you understand your users’ expectations and understanding of your content.

Knowing how your users group information can help you: 

  1. build the structure for your website
  2. decide what to put on the homepage
  3. label categories and navigation

Whether you get together with a group of your sites' users, a group of colleauges from your department, or a combination of both, follow these steps to conduct a carding sorting session.

Structure for Service, Simplicity & Scannability

VOICE

The voice, or tone, of the writing on your website communicates a great deal about your department’s philosophy, values, and personality. Read more about UM-Flint's approach to voice and tone.

VOCABULARY

Like voice and tone, word choice should value clarity and comprehension above all else. Read more about vocabulary considerations.

HEADING STRUCTURE

Headings help web writers—and readers—structure content so that its form communicates clearly. There is much more to read about the importance of heading structure.

Continuous Attention, Continuous Improvement

If we think of our websites as conversations—as telephones not file cabinets—it would be rude to keep retelling the same tired story about ourselves every time anyone initiates a conversation with us. Your website—and more specifically, your content—demands continuous consideration.

All content—not simply date-specific event information—has a lifecycle. And yes, the life and death of your content can only be determined by your audience. Ask them:

  • Is it still relevant to them?
  • Is it still fresh and inviting based on current sensibilities?
  • Are you still having a meaningful conversation?

New content for the sake of new content may not be what your audience wants or needs. As long as you continue to seek out, understand, and meet the needs of your users, you are continuing to have a meaningful conversation.

Continuous web information, help, and workshop schedules for all UM-Flint communicators, CMS users, content creators, and others is available at the University Relations blog.