We’ve fostered a mantra of process vs. project at mStoner. The goal is to help our clients move away from big website redesign projects every five to seven years and toward an operating model in which we implement smaller, incremental changes on an ongoing basis. This doesn’t mean an institutional rebrand or broad design refresh won’t ever happen, but it positions marketing and communications units to make the best use of large investments in website redesign projects, learn from and leverage what works, and be more agile in the ability to respond to emerging needs.
Here are five ways the higher education environment naturally supports the new transition to a more mature higher ed website:
The time is right for many institutions to make the transition from project to process. And analytics are at the heart of this transition.
How are those institutions already living the project‐to‐process transition finding success? What are the ways data fuels these iterative projects?
Here are some techniques our clients employ using various analytics tools to make incremental changes on their websites:
A website redesign does not have to accomplish everything at once. You can always add new templates or functionality after a relaunch, or revamp the request for information process as part of a new CRM within admissions. The ability to prioritize these post‐redesign initiatives — and use data to show what moves the needle — keeps things moving more quickly and avoids one initiative causing delays to another.
Train someone (or multiple someones!) on the marketing and communications team on your institution’s analytics tools. It is important that they know how your institution captures analytic data — but they don’t need to be expert‐level. This role advocates for how initiatives will be measured and can analyze results. Getting up to speed using Google Analytics Academy’s free training courses is always a good place to start. Increasingly, more than one tool may be helpful. Don’t overlook Google Search Console, heat mapping, usability testing, A/B testing, and digital advertising platforms as potential sources of data. Trying a tool doesn’t mean keeping it forever — be willing to experiment and move on from a tool if it doesn’t help.
Moving from big website projects to a sustainable process is a more effective and pleasant way to maintain a website. There are opportunities to improve brand perceptions, web content, site performance, conversions, organic search traffic, overall user experience, and much more. Using analytics as a driver of your process is a great way to prioritize and keep focused on changes that make a difference.
As we approach the summer months and planning for the next academic year, now’s the perfect time to revisit your analytics.
Remember: Gathering the data is important, but what you do with the numbers you collect — the actionable insights you uncover for immediate improvements to your website — is what matters.
It’s time to make data‐driven decisions and connect digital performance back to strategic goals. If you’re interested in learning how mStoner can help you better understand your data and put it to work, let’s find a time to chat. We offer services spanning from analytics audits and setting up Google Analytics and Tag Manager to developing insight‐driven road maps and implementing iterative changes on your site.
Greg Zguta Director of Web Development I've been working on education web projects since the late 90's and enjoy visiting campuses and watching how technology has transformed higher education since I got my first email account at Oberlin College in 1992. Back then, I mostly used the web to check weather radar and sports scores . . . I suppose technology hasn't transformed everything yet.