A little history
As the web has matured in the last 15 years or so, there has been a fairly typical pattern of adoption among most organizations. At first, the web was seen as a novelty, a new technology whose uses weren't clear. Usually some eager employee threw together a "web page" for the organization and maintained it by hand. There was little real thinking about professionally created design or content, and even less about the potential impact of the web on the organization's way of life. In other words, there was no recognition of the web's real potential, and no strategy for maximizing that potential.
Later, during the boom-and-bust cycle of the overhyped and underpowered web, the web became a more serious consideration for most organizations. They put trust in the hands of talented amateurs and a little money into the marketing or IT departments. Though there was little clear strategy, there were very high expectations. It was thought the web could increase revenues abd expand audiences, and that it could do so no the cheap. So at this point, we had better recognition of the web's potential, but still no strategy.
In later phases, organizations began to take the web very seriously. This was not because the technology finally started to mature, though that was a factor. Instead, it was because the audience had changed. Whatever the organization's approach to the web had been, the facts were impossible to ignore. The web has now overtaken TV, radio, and print as the number one source of information for Americans over 18. More Americans have internet access (74%) than have cable (61%). In this reality, the web is king when it comes to providing content to our audiences. More importantly, those audiences have become very sophisticated in their use of the web and their expectations for complete, high-quality service via the web have reached new heights.
An old problem
KCTCS recognizes these truths, and has been working for some time to improve our web infrastructure in order to meet and exceed those rising expectations. When we did research on all KCTCS web sites some time back, we included the KCTCS.edu web site as well. What we learned about the college sites is that we need to do a better job organizing content, providing online services, and improving the way we manage and present our content. The same was true for the KCTCS.edu site as well, but we learned a couple of additional things.
First, we learned that the site was very confusing. It was mostly geared toward internal audiences instead of the public. Second, the site didn't do a good job of showing what the System (and the System Office) are really about. The new site set out to change all that.
A new direction
The KCTCS.edu web site is one of the first in KCTCS to undergo a transition to a System-wide content management system. That content managmeent system (called Sitecore), provides us with a single platform for managing and hosting all our public web sites. Why is that a good thing? Simply put, it allows our web sites to work seamlessly together, it allows local content experts to manage what shows up on the web, and it puts us in a position to build tools and services to meet our customer expectations.
But new software isn't the whole story when it comes to the new KCTCS.edu and other web sites. We're also taking a new approach to the basics: identifying our audiences, creating a web site architecture that's easy to navigate, using graphic design that reflects both who we are and who our audience is, and writing content that speaks to our audience in language they understand. What you'll see with the new KCTCS.edu then is a site that:
- Looks better because it employs research and best practices in web graphic design,
- Is easier to navigate because it is founded on solid information architecture principles,
- "Sounds" better, because much of the content has been rewritten in a style and tone that appeals to our audiences,
- And is geared toward the primary audiences of the System Office--business leaders, legislators, and the general public.
There's still a focus on students of course, but those communications and services are driven by the colleges, who do it best after all. The primary goal of the college sites is to provide top-notch service to students and prospective students. The primary goal of KCTCS.edu is to provide important information and service to a statewide audience, while driving students to the colleges. It's a balance that benefits everybody, and we're excited to see it in action.
What does this mean for me?
That really depends on who you are. If you're a prospective or current student, it means you'll find it easier to get to the information you need at your local college. If you're an employee of KCTCS, it means the information you need for your audience is easier to find, and that you may even be maintaining that content on the web yourself. For employees, it also means that much of the internally-oriented content on KCTCS.edu will be moving to thePoint. Finally, if you're a member of an external KCTCS audience (the media, legislators, etc.), you'll find better content, an easy-to-use site, and a higher level of service. We hope you'll agree that's a good thing.
When is the new site coming?
Spring 2009. Tentatively, we're aiming for the middle of March. We'll share more about launch plans as we get closer.
Is everything on kctcs.edu going to be moved to the new platform at launch?
No. All our initial Sitecore implementations will focus on the top 50-100 pages of the web site. These are the most visited and most critical pages for our audiences. The goal of these initial launches is to lay the infrastructure for a much-improved web presence.
It will take quite a bit longer to migrate the thousands of other pages on our web sites. Migration of other pages will happen over a period of many months, as training and migration planning are completed. These legacy pages will remain available however from the new web site, so our existing content will not simply disappear at launch.
Distinct entities like the Coal Academy, Fire Commission, NARA, and KBEMS will be migrated as discrete projects.
Will I need to change my bookmarks/favorites?
In many cases, yes. Content will be moving to different URLs (web addresses), so your bookmarks may change. We will attempt to automatically redirect as many old URLs as possible to the new ones, which should make this easier for you. Remember too that many internally-oriented pages will be moving to thePoint, so there will certainly be some changes.
With the improved naviagation on our new site, plus an improved search engine and a "what's changed" page, we hope the transition will be a fairly smooth one.
Who updates our new web site?
As we launch each of the new sites we will be allowing people to become content owners and authors. Content owners and authors will be responsible for updating the sections of the site where they are an expert. That means that the people who best understand the content are the people who are updating in for our sites and that means the information on our sites is more accurate.
What's changing on the new KCTCS.edu web site?
As you know, the new KCTCS.edu web site is launching in just a few days. Because you’re used to the way the web site looks and the way it’s organized now, we thought we’d give a bit of a heads-up about where the differences are. Read more
Is there any way to get my documents on thePoint on the web?
Sure is. Our website is able to ask thePoint for some information, like documents and calendars, and bring them to the web as needed while keeping the rest of thePoint secure.