Appendix B
Episode 006 -

Responsible Website Stewardship

Appendix B Episode 6, text is present that reads, "Responsible Website Stewardship."

College and University websites need responsible stewardship in order to be successful. It’s as simple as that.
If you’re spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on it, you better understand if it’s paying dividends, and, most importantly, if it’s aiding in the student experience. The key is to stay on top of web and digital trends, run tests continuously, and always be learning. Any questions?
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Carl Gratiot: From Bravery Media, this is Appendix B, candid conversations about Higher Ed in 10 minutes or less. And now, here are your hosts, Kristin Van Dorn and Joel Goodman.

Joel Goodman: Okay, so last week, I think it was last week, well, recently, we’ll just put it recently, we were on a presentation with one of our clients and, we were in there with the president of this university, and I was explaining this concept around how websites are never done, and Bravery’s approach is constantly, researching and optimizing. So we don’t just do a bunch of research at the beginning and then do a website and hand it over and then we leave. You know, unless we know that our client is gonna be able to continue that research. We want to come in, do the research, build the thing, but then also research before we launch it.

And then after we launch, also research more and then come back and, you know, do this kind of feedback loop where we can make the website increasingly better. And, this university president had said that he never wanted to hear someone say, “our website is terrible” again. I was like yeah, totally, I agree!

But you gotta realize that you can’t just build the website and then not pay attention to it. And a lot of institutions are in that position, right? You’ll drop a quarter of a million dollars on a website redesign or more. I mean, a lot of people, I mean, I know I’ve heard of schools spending upwards of a million dollars on a website redesign.

And if you just let that sit for three years, four years, five years, and you don’t really do anything but add content to it, you’re not really checking to see if that content’s performing or those images are performing or whatever it is. You end up with something that’s outdated and something that’s not working.

And this university president said, “oh, well it’s, that’s kind of all about stewardship of university funds, right?” You can’t just expect this to do the thing that it was designed to do for four years without ever coming back and looking at it. And I’ve been saying this internally at Bravery for at least a year, and it was awesome to hear someone else say it.

But it really is about stewardship of funds and it’s one of those things that I feel, Higher Ed’s, I don’t know if it’s Higher Ed’s not good at it, or if they don’t even realize that that’s part of it because there’s such a disconnect between departments across campus, or you don’t really realize that the amount of money that comes in from a single newly enrolled student affects, you know, more than just a marketing budget or more than just an academic budget, or more than just, you know, upkeep of grounds and buildings and stuff like that.

But it really is a stewardship question. If you’re not putting money constantly, or attention constantly into whatever it is, whatever that project is, it’s not good stewardship. It’s kind of just a waste of money.

Kristin Van Dorn: Yeah. The investment for a new website is not something where you can press pause on that budget and then maybe allocate over the next few years future redesign budget, but otherwise you don’t touch it.

Because web trends and content trends are changing so rapidly that you need to be able to iteratively keep pace with them.

Joel Goodman: And I think the places where we see this the most right, are in staffing. So they try to put the onus of getting all this research data and pulling these insights in from whoever is the main web person.

And that person may be someone that does design and development and content, and now they’re responsible for creating reports in Google Analytics and okay, cool. Google Analytics. Great tool, lots of data. But if the person doesn’t actually know how to parse that or isn’t, hasn’t been trained or isn’t an expert in it, then how useful is that data that’s coming in?

And so that’s part of, I think why web teams in Higher Ed are stretched so thin all the time is everyone’s doing jobs that they’re really not fit to do. It’s not what they’ve focused on. It’s not the training they’ve had, and so they’re trying to get by and do the best they can, but then you end up making either decisions that are ill-advised or at least aren’t super effective on your website, or you just sit back because you really don’t know what the data’s telling you.

Kristin Van Dorn: Yeah. I think that there’s an economy of scale when you outsource some of this work to an agency partner or someone else that is working across multiple clients or multiple industries where they have the chance to hone a skill in Google Analytics and to give you really great hourly work in Google Analytics in a level of expertise that they have without it costing a full-time hire or a ton of professional development on your staff side in order to get, the same equivalent.

Joel Goodman: So the other part of stewardship that we come across a lot is this side of having a bunch of subscription products, and people that don’t know how to use them or, or just forget that they’re there.

And so, you know, you end up spending $20,000 on, you know, a product say, a SiteImprove that does a whole lot of really great stuff, can provide a ton of great data, but you’re using it as a broken link checker, or you get those email reports that come in that show, how many links are not broken anymore, but you’re not using any of the real deep data that you could get out of those products, or, or, you know, things like Moz, or SEO type products, things like that. There are a lot of these platforms out there that provide a ton of data and I don’t know how, what do you think Kristin, how are, do you think institutions are getting the proper value out of those tools that they’re getting, I guess?

Kristin Van Dorn: Well, oftentimes, a lot of these tools also have overlapping features and I think that with a little bit more care to the feature list, more institutions could evaluate what features they need, what features are covered by other subscriptions in their marketing tech stack and find a synergistic mix that’s gonna support their institution better.

But to your point, there’s almost no point to having this subscription service if you’re not understanding how to leverage it for the best institutional value. And if you don’t understand what it’s doing or how it’s contributing to your bottom line, that’s not to say that you can cut it because you don’t understand it.

That’s one thing that I want to discourage people from doing is looking at the budget line items and saying, I’m not quite sure how a Hot Jar subscription is contributing to our ability to move our website forward, so I’m just gonna get rid of it. That’s not the solution. The solution is taking the time as a steward of your university to understanding how it works inside the rest of your tech stack, and making a smart choice about what features you need and how to leverage those features to the greatest stability.

Joel Goodman: And I think going back to what you said earlier, maybe the only time you do cut those subscriptions is when you have a partner that’s already running that stuff. I’m a firm believer that it’s not the tool that provides the value, it’s the data that’s coming through those tools. And what that insight is, and we’ve been talking about this at Bravery a lot within what we’re doing, in Higher Ed, where you shouldn’t be worried about the CMS that you’re using or you shouldn’t be worried about the analytics tool or whatever it is.

What you should be worried about is, are you getting the right insights back to create really good marketing decisions, really good strategic decisions, and if that’s coming from a third party partner, you know, a vendor that you’re working with or it’s coming from a tool that you know how to use really well, or it’s coming from an internal office that does data analytics and is really good at that.

It doesn’t matter where it’s coming from, as long as those insights are sound and are helping you make those decisions better.

Narrator: Thanks for listening to Appendix B. If you’d like to give us feedback, you can do so on Apple Podcasts or on our YouTube channel. Please check out our newsletter at, we’ll be back next week.