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TAMU Webmaster's Blog

Information and insight from the A&M Webmasters

Next up

February 4th, 2013 by Erick Beck

I have already had several people ask “Virtual tours was a big project. Now that it’s over what do you have planned next?” I pretty much answer the same. The virtual tours have been published, but they are far from finished. In fact, we were starting Round Two before the first generation was even ready to go online. We have over 1,000 buildings on campus. While many of these are ancillary and will never be included on the tours, the first round consisted of less than two dozen locations. We are already planning releases (hopefully spring break and summer) to increase that dramatically.

Which brings me to the real point of this post, now that I have you hooked with a status report. All to often we take the wrong approach to our projects. We are so used to developing and providing services that we forget that what we are really providing is experiences. Users come to our sites because they want something out of them. We can provide them an experience that blends in with any other university, or we can make them remember us by providing something spectacular.

While the implementation of the campus tours isn’t something I would call spectacular, the original vision was…and you can see parts of that in what we accomplished. The photos are absolutely stunning, and the way we tied them together with audio and supplemental content like Foursquare worked out well. Future content releases will further enhance this mix by providing 360-degree panoramas.

This is why we decided to launch the first generation of the tour like we did, with only limited content. If we had waited until we had all of the locations, and all of the media content, it would have taken another year. Or, as is more often the case, we could have rushed something out the door that would have been unremarkable.

The “experience” is said to be that something extra that is added beyond the requirements of the service itself. It is why Starbucks can charge $4.00 for a cup of coffee…you are buying the brand, or the experience, in most cases more so than the actual product.

That is what I am challenging our team to do on all of our projects. If you don’t think big, your accomplishments will remain small. We will surely struggle with this, timelines and other pressures will at times force us to settle, but I hope we never will be satisfied with rolling out something that is forgettable.

If possible, try this first on several small projects, where the effect will be more noticeable and magnified. Doing this lots of times on small projects will allow the effect to add up so that cumulatively you achieve as much as one large release. We are in the middle of several big projects, so this is going to be difficult for us.

So if you ever question why our postings here have slowed down or why we don’t seem to be releasing as many new projects, right now we are focusing on how to enhance the user experience across the board.

Monday, February 4th, 2013 Campus Tours, Ongoing Projects
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1 Comment to Next up

  1. Hey Erick. I’m currently reading REWORK by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson (of 37signals fame), which offers a cornucopia of good advice about projects and product deliver. I strongly recommend it; it’s an addictive & easy for busy managers. It will bear fruit at work almost immediately.

    Great job delivering a MVP (minimum viable product) with CampusTour! What a gigantic step up from

    Love the “mobile first” experience. RWD for the win!

  2. Monty on February 4th, 2013

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