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June 30, 2015

June 2015 Newsletter

Table of Contents

  1. A Remarkably Enjoyable Website Redesign Case Study
  2. 2015 eduWeb Digital Summit in Chicago

A Remarkably Enjoyable Website Redesign Case Study

By Brendan Magee
If you want to read an amusing website case study, then look no further—the good people at The Onion have published a delightful landing page announcing their recent redesign. On this page, they manage to convey the actual improvements to their website while skewering other major media outlets (e.g., The New York Times) in the process.

The reason that such satire is necessary should be readily apparent to anyone who’s read a story about a redesigned news website. Margaret Rhodes of WIRED puts it rather succinctly: (1) those inflated announcement pages, (2) the patronizing tone news organizations use to explain their design thinking, and (3) the pretense that readers are privileged over advertisers.”

Without ruining too many Onion jokes, I can tell you that these redesign articles are littered with hyperbole and insipid industry lingo. All of the features are presented as if they’re truly groundbreaking, even when the “groundbreaking” ideas are just “continuous scrolling,” “related content that’s easy to find,” and “high-res photos that you can click to enlarge.” A mere glance through The Gray Lady’s redesign announcement yields such gems as these:
“Sleeker. Faster. More intuitive. In a word, enhanced.” Is this the new Olympic motto? To be honest, I liked citius, altius, fortius (or “swifter, higher, stronger” for all you Latin-challenged folks).

“Reading is believing. Content, unimpeded. For a more immersive experience.” If I wanted an immersive experience, I would have taken a bubble bath. This is the part where they fail to mention that they really want you immersed in advertising, not content. After all, more clicks mean more ad revenue.

“All your favorite sections in one place.” This is their way of describing the left-hand navigation, which one may access by clicking the delightful little hamburger icon next to the word “Sections.” Never seen one of those before!

“Know when big news breaks.” An alert will pop up at the top of the page to alert you when there’s a breaking story—whether you want to read about it or not. It’s a good thing this isn’t the CNN website, because nine times out of ten, that alert would be “Malaysia Airlines flight still missing” or something equally useless.
To be fair, it’s not easy to write an original, engaging piece about a redesign project (you can take that from someone whose job regularly entails such efforts). Descriptions of the really challenging aspects of a project (i.e., the backend coding and integrations) are a bit too abstruse and technical (read: boring) for the average reader. Thus, I’ve found that the best approach is simply to highlight the obvious improvements—better navigation, responsive design, user-friendly layout, etc.—and let the reader test drive the new features by clicking through the site.

Regardless of how you feel about these articles about website launches, the redesigned Onion website is a pleasure to browse, with a user experience on par with any first-rate news site. Congratulations are in order for the “team of engineers shackled at the The Onion’s Laogai-base technology facility in Guangzhou” for their tireless efforts in building such a flawless, immersive experience—as if they had some choice in the matter!
 

2015 eduWeb Digital Summit in Chicago

By Garry Sittig
For the sixth year in a row, Hodgson will be attending the eduWeb Digital Summit, which will be taking place July 27th through July 30th at the Westin Downtown in Chicago, Illinois. Those of you who have been to this conference before know that this is an annual, internationally recognized multi-day event for the higher education community.

The eduWeb Digital Summit attracts those who are involved in the design, development, marketing, strategy, and implementation of their online presence. Attendees come from numerous different departments, including marketing, public relations, alumni, admissions / enrollment, advancement, student affairs, IT, athletics, and more.

Starting in 2014, the eduWeb Digital Summit launched a new event, the Master Class, which is well worth your attention. It includes these features:

 

  • Intense, interactive classroom with top-notch faculty
  • Limited to approximately 35 participants
  • Maximum peer-to-peer dialogue
  • Hands-on activities and instruction

Both Karen Rosen and I will be at Table 4 in the ballroom lobby during this year's eduWeb Digital Summit. Pay us a visit, and we'll spend some time talking about your marketing goals for the coming school year and how we can help you drive new student enrollment and alumni engagement through your web presence.