the sally sisson blog

December 1, 2011

Web content and the eternal home page question: How much is too much?


education websites | xkcd venn diagram

I love this Venn diagram by xkcd. It was projected on the wall at the start of a Future M seminar I attended this September called “Beyond the University Website – The Future of Digital Marketing in Higher Education.” This image keeps coming back to me, in content decisions for both edu and B2B.

Sponsored by ISITE Design, and moderated by chief strategy officer Jeff Cram, the panel included Mike Petroff, Web and Technology Enrollment Manager at Emerson College; Perry Hewitt, Chief Digital Officer at Harvard; Gene Begin, Digital Marketing Director at Babson College; and Tom Baird, Vice Chancellor of University of Michigan Dearborn.

Content Overload? It’s all about balance.

I’ve been working on content strategy, optimization, writing and editing for an independent preK-8 school website this year and am about to begin on one for an independent high school. Funny how, regardless of the size of the school, the home page issues always seem to be the same.

How to balance content for current vs. prospective students and constituents? How many news feeds, blog feeds, photo and video galleries do you really need? How can we make sure it’s all optimized for search? What is the true purpose of the home page anyway? How much is too much?

I’m knee-deep in content migration from one CMS to another on the above mentioned website, but once I come up for air I’ll grapple with this question some more. Got any formulas for success? Would love to hear them.

FutureM wrap-ups:

Here are a couple good summaries of the FutureM seminar, along with some choice tweets on CMS quandries (as universal as the homepage ones, it seems to me), mobile stats for edu, and the need for social strategy:

Open Parenthesis: Future M on Higher Education
post by John Eckman of ISTE

Inside FutureM: Digital Marketing and Higher Education
post by Erik Devaney on New England Post



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October 30, 2009

Rub-a-dub-TUB (part one): Pot bellies, bathtubs and the birth of “information architecture”

TUB sign

Last month I flew out to San Francisco to attend the TUB 20-year reunion. What is TUB, you ask? I spent a lot of time answering this question before and after the event.

TUB stands for The Understanding Business. A clever name coined for a design firm/guidebook publisher in the business of “making information understandable.”

Understand? No, you’re not alone. Ironically, those of us who worked there spent years trying to explain the name.

Our boss, Richard Saul Wurman, architect, designer and co-founder of the TED Conference, came up with it. He waxed lyrical when asked to describe the name in an interview with Information Design:

“It is a peculiar word because it has the word ‘under’ and ‘standing’ in it: what does that mean? How did that happen? ‘Under’ is a negative term, and ‘standing’, which is a different thing, those two words together create a word of such warmth. I named a company ‘The Understanding Business’; the initials are TUB. This has two meanings: the fact that I have a big pot belly and because Archimedes was in a bathtub when he said, ‘Eureka, I understand!’ For me, it is all about understanding.”

Try explaining that at a cocktail party.

Wurman coined the term “information architecture” more than 30 years ago. Now “information design” is a more accurate description of the work we did at TUB.

All kidding aside, TUB helped shape me as a writer and editor and content developer in important ways. Plus I made some amazing friends. Why else would I fly 3,000 miles for an office reunion?

Read Wurman’s full interview here:

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