Developing a Web strategy

In collaboration with the Dartmouth Web Producers Group

We propose the development of a detailed Web strategy that will clarify stakeholders, vision, principles, and goals for Web communications to on-campus and external audiences. It would provide an actionable roadmap for Web Publishing Services, as well as the many campus Web development groups who wish to apply their efforts more efficiently.

We further suggest revisiting this Web strategy on a cyclical basis to make sure the Dartmouth Web experience remains strategically and technically up-to-date.

A. The Charter (Who)

Focus: Governance and Authority

  • What group/person is the primary “champion”?
  • Who are the stakeholders?
  • What group is responsible for each phase?
  • Who will define success?

Road Map

A Web Executive Steering Committee would be chartered to define vision, prioritize principles, and allocate resources for the Web experience at Dartmouth. This committee of executive officers would have final responsibility and authority for guiding the Web vision and approving strategic plans.

The Web Communications Team and Advisory Committees would develop strategic goals that connect the Web Executive Team’s vision and principles with Web initiatives (programs and projects) across campus. These strategic goals would be approved by the Web Executive Team.

Web producers and developers across campus would advise the Web Communications Team on programs and projects and their relationship to prioritized strategic initiatives.

B. The Web Action Plan (When)

Focus: Timeframe and Schedule

  • What time period will this strategy cover?
  • What are the development and consultation steps?
  • When will development of the next version begin?

Road Map

The components of a Web Action Plan would include:

  • A vision statement.
  • Prioritized principles.
  • Strategic goals.
  • Summaries of related program and project initiatives.

The process of developing this action plan would include:

  • A comparative analysis of other institutions.
  • An evaluation of Dartmouth’s Web strengths and weaknesses.
  • An open consultation period for members of the Dartmouth Web community.

The plan would cover a two-year period, after which a new plan is developed to support the evolving technology environment. Planning for the next version would begin eighteen months after the initial kick-off.

C. Guidance (Why)

Focus: Vision and Principles

  • Why will this work be undertaken? For whom?
  • What are the principles that guide the work?
  • How are these principles prioritized?

Road Map

The Web Executive Steering Committee would approve a broad vision statement from which the rest of the Web Action Plan flows. (See article on a strategic vision for the Web.)

A vision statement might look like this:

The World Wide Web is an integral part of the Dartmouth experience for all members of the College community.

Indeed, for many who live at a distance — including prospective students and alumni — the Web may be the primary window on the Dartmouth experience.

Therefore, the Web experience shall take advantage of emerging tools and techniques to improve communications and transactions between and amongst members of the Dartmouth community, wherever they may be.

First principles would support this vision and guide the development of strategic goals. The Steering Committee would prioritize these principles in relationship to Dartmouth’s long-term institutional goals. (The following example of first principles is ranked for demonstration purposes only.)

The Dartmouth Web experience shall:

  1. Be user-centered.
  2. Present accurate information.
  3. Be efficient and sustainable.
  4. Support a sense of community.
  5. Reflect Dartmouth’s mission.
  6. Be creative, dynamic, and emotionally rich.
  7. Be reliable and secure.

D. Direction (What)

Focus: Goals and Strategies

  • What are the goals that will achieve the vision?
  • What strategies will lead to these goals?

Road Map

Web principles — prioritized and approved by the Web Executive Steering Committee — would make it possible to organize a set of strategic goals that provide direction for Web initiatives (programs and projects) across campus.

A list of first principles with their related strategic goals (in a sample rank order) might look like this:

The Dartmouth Web experience shall:

1. Be user-centered (principle)

  1. Identify user needs and encourage constituent-based service (strategic goal).
  2. Make the Dartmouth Web experience as usable and accessible as possible.
  3. Develop personalizable Web services and experiences.
  4. Present ubiquitous opportunities for feedback.

2. Present accurate information

  1. Reinforce content authorship, ownership, and accountability.
  2. Develop a simple content-update process for Web editors.
  3. Help editors keep information accurate and up-to-date.

3. Be efficient and sustainable

  1. Use Web development resources efficiently.
  2. Encourage collaborative development and production.
  3. Encourage standards-based and standards-compliant tools and technologies.
  4. Manage and reuse digital assets.
  5. Emphasize scalable content and architecture.

4. Support a sense of community

  1. Facilitate interaction among affinity groups.
  2. Provide a Web toolbox for group collaboration.
  3. Connect Dartmouth to the world.

5. Reflect Dartmouth’s mission

  1. Project mission cohesively through a wide variety of Web experiences.
  2. Convey a strong sense of place.
  3. Communicate campus stories effectively.

6. Be creative, dynamic, and emotionally rich

  1. Demonstrate creative thinking through innovative uses of the Web.
  2. Present an engaging and appealing interface and interaction design.
  3. Embrace motion in the Web experience.

7. Be reliable and secure

  1. Assure dependable Web infrastructure.
  2. Respect user privacy and security.
  3. Guarantee data integrity.
  4. Enable safe and effective transactions.

These goals are ranked and evaluated based on how effectively they support four strategic imperatives (TRIP):

  • Teaching and learning.
  • Research conduct and dissemination.
  • Internal communication between and amongst faculty, staff, and students.
  • Public communication of the Dartmouth experience for the off-campus community.

E. Management (How)

Focus: Projects and Resources

  • How will the strategies be accomplished?
  • What staff will be required for each?
  • What funding is needed?

Road Map

Once principles and goals are prioritized, the Web Communications Team and Advisory Committees:

  • Match potential initiatives (programs and projects) with top principles and goals.
  • Conduct preliminary needs analyses.
  • Invite collaborative teams of campus experts to research and present best practices for top initiatives.

The initiatives are assigned values. In this sample, the values are calculated by multiplying the principle rank and the goal rank. (One is highest and 28 is lowest.)

First Principle Strategic Goal Potential Initiative (Value)
1. Be user-centered 1. Identify user needs and encourage constituent-based service. Ongoing audience research and user groups (1 x 1 = 1)
2. Make the Dartmouth Web experience as usable and accessible as possible. Usability and accessibility guidelines (2)
3. Develop personalizable Web experiences. Single sign-on, identity management, and new service deployment (3)
4. Present ubiquitous opportunities for feedback. Automated feedback system (4)
2. Present accurate information 1. Reinforce content authorship, ownership, and accountability. Content owner policies (2)
2. Develop a simple content-update process for Web editors. Wide deployment of content/asset management systems (4)
3. Help editors keep information accurate and up-to-date. Content-update notification/syndication system (6)
3. Be efficient and sustainable 1. Use Web development resources efficiently. Shared production/ development resource management (3)
2. Encourage collaborative development and production. Collaborative Web work groups (6)
3. Encourage standards-based and standards-compliant tools and technologies. Standards for development tools, techniques, and browsers (9)
4. Manage and reuse digital assets. Digital asset management (12)
5. Emphasize scalable content and architecture. Architecture and content guidelines (15)
4. Support a sense of community 1. Facilitate interaction among affinity groups. Group activity/event registration and calendar (4)
2. Provide Web toolbox for group collaboration. Community-building tools (8)
3. Connect Dartmouth to the world. Targeted gateways for external audiences (12)
5. Reflect Dartmouth’s mission 1. Project cohesive mission through a wide variety of Web experiences. Broker bureau for mission-specific production services (5)
2. Convey a strong sense of place. Campus map and tour (10)
3. Communicate campus stories effectively. Multimedia storytelling (15)
6. Be creative, dynamic, and emotionally rich 1. Demonstrate creative thinking through innovative uses of the Web. Innovative, world-class Web experiences (6)
2. Present an engaging and appealing interface and interaction design. Visual identity system and interface standards (12)
3. Embrace motion in the Web experience. Interactive rich media (streaming audio/video) (18)
7. Be reliable and secure 1. Assure dependable Web infrastructure. Web server requirements (static, dynamic, media) (7)
2. Respect user privacy and security. Guidelines for privacy, security, conduct (14)
3. Guarantee data integrity. Content ownership policy for official and personal sites (21)
4. Enable safe and effective transactions. Infrastructure for electronic processing (28)

Based on the above matrix, the following 15 initiatives would be considered strategically top-ranked:

  • Ongoing audience research and user groups (value: 1).
  • Usability and accessibility guidelines (2).
  • Content owner policies (2).
  • Single sign-on, identity management, and new service deployment (3).
  • Shared production/development resource management (3).
  • Automated feedback system (4).
  • Group activity/event registration and calendar (4).
  • Wide deployment of content/asset management systems (4).
  • Broker bureau for mission-specific production services (5).
  • Content-update notification/syndication system (6).
  • Innovative, world-class Web experiences (6).
  • Collaborative Web work groups (6).
  • Community-building tools (8).
  • Web server requirements (static, dynamic, media) (8).
  • Standards for development tools, techniques, and browsers (9).

As soon as high-priority initiatives are identified and confirmed, the Web Communications Team collaborates with campus experts to:

  • Estimate general costs (staff and funding).
  • Seek resources to help departments implement the most highly-ranked strategic initiatives.

The number of initiatives that can be implemented is dependent on funding/resource levels.

F. User Experience (Where)

Focus: Interfaces and Interactions

  • Who are our Web users?
  • Where are they using the Web (home, work, wireless)?
  • What are their needs?
  • Are their needs being met by our Web experience?

Road Map

When funding is obtained for an initiative, project staff members develop and test it in close collaboration with target users, both during prototype development as well as after launching into production.

Success is based on metrics derived from the current vision and principles and strategic goals and imperatives. The project lead also evaluates the lessons learned:

  • Can and should the program/project be adjusted in subsequent phases?
  • What feedback about this initiative can be used to inform the next round of strategic planning?

G. Summary of Web Strategy Development

Vision to Implementation … and Back

  • How will knowledge about the user experience feed back into the next set of visions and principles?

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