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Bringing RIT’s news through the web and into 2006 Uncategorized

programmer.jpgIf you’ve ended up here, then there’s a good chance you’ve visited our parent site, RIT University News. If you haven’t, please take the time to check them out here.

Wonderful isn’t it? We’ve got a photo, some text, a few links. What more could you ask for in a web site?

The reality is, RIT University News has a mission. As the primary link between RIT wider audiences (including the media), we have a responsibility to communicate the values and vision that RIT embodies.

What this comes down to (or more accurately, what I’m mixed up in), is tools. Newspapers, newsletters, VNRs, editorials, blogs, podcasts, tattoos, etc. Each of them more or less effective based on their execution and audience.

What we’re doing right now is re-executing the site. We’re making content easier to access, re-organizing information by freshness/utility, and putting on a face that will better represent RIT’s identity. It’s an effort split between Mike Saffran, Paul Stella, Bob Finnerty, and I. It’s happening right now.

Why bother?

1. The current site doesn’t reflect our brand

We have a blue/grey palette, and we’re changing to a more tigrish orange/brown scheme. Good move, eh? In addition to the color scheme upgrade, we had the wonderful Jeff Arbegast assemble a layout for us, and it looks great.

2. We want to attract move readers

Sure, we get almost a thousand visitors a day. Statistics have shown that a good majority of them are interested in some of the less news-oriented content (specifically, the academic calendar). We’d like to have the public actually read our news releases, subscribe to RSS feeds, and check out the latest issue of News & Events for a better reason than ‘my name’s in this issue!’ We’re making sure the freshest and best news we have to offer is featured clearly.

3. The competition

At University News, we’ve got so much to do that we barely have time to acknowledge that there are other campuses working just as hard as we are to get a good word out. By redesigning our web site, being proactive about new media, and re-establishing RIT’s journalistic presence on the web, we’re getting leg up on the guys who are still using Microsoft Frontpage extensions to deliver their news.

4. Re-organize, re-structure, re-purpose

The folks here to a bang-up job of producing articles, releases, and all the rest. Tons and tons of it isn’t being properly represented on the web. We have publications online like the University Magazine that are only a shadow of their printed selves. Blog posts, event coverage, photography, an area for journalists, great News & Events stories. All of them satellites of the RIT University News home page. It’s time that we take all of this scattered goodness and combine it under a single banner.

5. The current site doesn’t reflect where we’re heading, only where we’ve been

We are on a path to something better. I’m not afraid to say that RIT’s web presence is not top-notch. The only reason I say this is because there are some things in the works that will turn this statement around. With any luck (and of course, hours upon hours of coding and tweaking), University News will lead RIT to a new standard of presence on the web.

So there you have it ladies & gentleman. There are a host of other reasons to redesign a web site, but I think these are the most relevant and succinct among them.

 
  1. Mike Saffran
    Sep 28

    Well stated, Pete. I’ll just add, a couple aims behind our efforts (and yours, from the tech side) are to:

    • Stay relevant and useful to our audience in a growing on-demand world. While our mission continues to be sharing RIT news (not public relations fluff) with the world—and, in the process, raising the profile of the university—we increasingly do so on our audience’s terms. By going around the traditional media (eliminating the middle man, in effect), our Web and new-media initiatives make RIT news available when and where our audience wants it. At the same time, through the availability RSS feeds that “push” news to our audience, ironically we also assume a role similar to traditional “push” media.

    • Capitalize on the popularity of social media (through conversations on this blog, for example) and multi-functionality. On our soon-to-be-unveiled new Web site, visitors will be able to read RIT news, listen to RIT news, comment about RIT news, see more great photographs related to RIT news, search for RIT news, check out Rochester weather, and more—sometimes all simultaneously.

    Personally, I can’t wait to bid “Good riddance” to our Web site’s current blue/gray color scheme. As for your reference to tattoos . . . I’ll share with you advice I once gave a caller to my radio show who suggested that I get inked with the station’s call letters:

    “If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my lifetime, it’s never get a tattoo of radio station call letters, or girlfriends’ names—because they both keep changing!” ;~)

  2. John
    Oct 02

    Pete, how do you determine what's user-friendly and what isn't? Do you reach out to the public through surveys, focus groups or other methods? Or do you rely on others who have done such things?

  3. Pete K
    Oct 02

    John:

    If I had to put a name to it, I'd call it a 'goal-oriented' approach. A user goal could consist of anything from finding a news article, uploading a photo, or finding the latest drivers for your scanner.

    Once I have the goals down, it's just a matter of determining the fewest amount of steps to the user's goal, the least amount of information necessary, or the best way to organize the information to suit the situation.

    Usually this plan is embodied in what is called 'the spec' for the web site/application. From there, it's a matter of coding it, testing it, and putting it out there.

    Surveys and focus groups are good for brainstorming. Early process stuff.

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