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More tough decisions

December 18th, 2009 by Erick Beck

In light of my last post about the purpose of a university website, is the most-used link on your home page important just because it is popular, or should it be removed if it really doesn’t (under our new model of the site’s purpose) belong there?

On the Texas A&M home page, the most popular link, by far, is  the link to student email.  Thousands of people per day type “www.tamu.edu” and then click the link rather than simply typing “email.tamu.edu” and going there directly.  If the university web site is truly to be centered on an external audience, though, this link really should be removed.  It belongs on a campus intranet, or the Howdy! portal, or perhaps in a list of student services – but it does not need to be a prominent feature on the home page.  So if we are serious about reshaping the purpose of the university website we need to remove it in our next maintenance release, knowing and accepting that there will be a huge backlash and cry to add it back on.

The key, then, is how to handle that backlash.  The problem is that the pressure to put it back won’t come just from students, but also from administrators who honestly think they are acting in the student’s interests, but who do not understand the reasoning for why we made the change.  Paradigm shifts are hard to explain, and harder to understand.  Our best chance is to start releasing bits and pieces of or plans well ahead of time, giving everyone time to digest it so that when the change comes it won’t be such a surprise.

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Friday, December 18th, 2009 www.tamu.edu
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3 Comments to More tough decisions

  1. Good luck with that; removing the portal aspect of tamu.edu wont be easy. I confess I use it for the GSA search form. Real-estate is precious and removing ‘cow path’ links can be expensive both politically and monetarily. I’m sure this is something you’ve known for years – new webmasters will learn in time.

    Here is something else to consider. Just because we choose a quick link doesn’t make it a quick link, and just because stats tell us a link is used more often doesn’t mean it should be a quick link. I think we sometimes artificially influence traffic to a page just because it’s a hot topic in our opinion. While it is true we may need to drive traffic to prospectives, we should make it clear that these links are for them and not just the most popular links. (Read: new students can smell the smallest amount of marketing in a website’s waters….)
    [I post this ’cause it caught my attention, all while I’m on Christmas holiday; that’s how important I think this topic is or can be.]

  2. Chris on December 18th, 2009
  3. HI, I got to admit I landed on this page by mistake, but your topic is of interest to me.
    You see, I manage website and run tests consistently to improve conversion.

    Might I suggest the following: run a survey, and ask the following; What don’t you want removed from the home page? run it for a month and make sure that the survey is active when the students come back from a long holiday ( you want to capture the forgetful behavior of users ) Make the survey cover about 5 or 6 different links. at least this way you avoid major backlash and have a justifiable defense when all heck breaks loose.

    you might want to run another bit of software before that, do some research for mouse tracking ( similar to an eyeball tracking study ), this way you know what is the most valuable section used, and the least valuable section ( if you need a link just send me an email and I’ll point you to some freeware )

    best of luck

    Mike

  4. mike on January 10th, 2010
  5. great article, i like this blog

  6. colonie on January 23rd, 2010

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