Web Toolbox

The Marketing & Communications Department (MarCom) oversees websites for the University, especially the public websites in the udmercy.edu domain.  MarCom staff manage website content, design, functionality, and technical development. Marcom oversees:

  • development of new websites, website sections, and webpages
  • consultation and training on best practices for the websites
  • training in the Cascade Server system, which we use to maintain the websites
  • control of user access and privileges in Cascade
  • technical assistance for content contributors
  • leadership on website design, usability, and accessibility
  • management of website code, functionality and other technical underpinnings
  • enforcement of strategic website scope
  • quality control over website content

Website quality critical for the University's goals. No website can be all things to all people.  So, it’s critical to be clear on the purpose of a website. 

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    How does Marcom determine priorities for the web?

    Website quality critical for the University's goals. No website can be all things to all people.  So, it’s critical to be clear on the purpose of a website.  For University of Detroit Mercy, the purpose of our public websites is to support the revenue-bearing activities of the institution, namely:

    • recruitment and retention of students
    • advancement, i.e. fundraising

    Based on these core Web goals, the most important audiences for Detroit Mercy websites are:

    • prospective students (and their parents)
    • donors, especially alumni

    By necessity, website activities that further these goals will always be given priority.

Much of the content on our websites requires the involvement of subject matter experts to keep their content accurate and up-to-date. Such "sitekeepers" can be given access to modify website pages. This Web toolbox lists several of the concerns that sitekeepers need to be aware of to keep our websites in good shape. 

When should I call Marcom?

First of all, always come to the Marketing & Communications Department to discuss any Web-related issues you have in mind, such as:

  • website maintenance questions
  • adding files or pages to an existing website
  • building a new site or new functionality
  • choosing and integrating a third-party Web system

Maintaining your website

If you are a subject matter expert responsible for maintaining the website content for your area, the following information is for "sitekeepers" like you.

Sitekeepers should only worry about making sure that the website provides the information and functions they know their customers need.  This excludes concerns that are handled by MarCom, such as website design, organization, technical modifications, etc.

Sitekeepers Recommendations

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    Prioritize the maintenance of your website

    Few areas of the University have a dedicated Web person.  Usually, site keeping is assigned to an employee who already has other duties.  Nonetheless, it is critical to understand that the website is typically the first and primary source our customers use for information.  So, give the website serious priority.

    • Schedule regular site review and maintenance
      Put it on your calendar to check your website on a regular basis, at least once per term (i.e. fall, winter, and summer).  You may be surprised how often you find things you didn’t realize you need to change, add, or delete.
    • Contact MarCom with any questions
      We always prefer that you ask us for guidance whenever you have any confusion about how to keep your website in good condition.  It takes us much less time to guide you up front than to fix something later.
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    What to check

    When reviewing and updating your website, focus on the following criteria for your content:

    • Accuracy – All numbers, names, links, etc. are correct and up-to-date.
    • Relevance – Provide everything your customers want to know, and only what they want to know.  The most commonly asked-for information should be at the beginning of your content.  Details and less frequent questions should be addressed further down in the site.  As to extra information that people don’t usually ask for, it should not be on the site – it is clutter, which makes it harder for the user to focus on the important stuff.  The exception is when there is a legal requirement to provide certain information – in which case, make sure it is placed in a way that does not interfere with any content that is more important to your users.
    • Your customer’s language (not yours) – Never assume the terms you use every day mean anything to website users.  You may be amazed to realize that words and phrases that you think are universal and obvious are actually new and confusing insider jargon to your customers.  And the problem is, most customers won’t ask for clarification.  Question even your most basic lingo.  Would a high-school student (whose parents didn’t go to college and who is just beginning their college search) understand every term you’re using?  Are you willing to risk losing a prospect on your assumption?  For example, don’t assume every prospective student knows the difference between a scholarship, a grant, and a loan.  Don’t assume they understand the meaning of advising or registration – these things can mean different things in different places.  Explain every term specific to your area.
    • Content responsibilities– Detailed content guidelines are listed separately.  The guidelines are designed to maintain a high level of content quality.

    If you are a good writer, also focus on the following needs for your website content.  If you are not a good writer, please ask MarCom personnel for help.  We are happy to apply our in-house editorial capacity to help you improve your content in the following areas.

    • Concision – On the Web especially, shorter writing is almost always better, but always provide reasonably full information.  “Contact us with any questions” is usually good to include too.
    • Tone – While the University is an intellectually advanced and professional organization, people will respond better to content that comes across as friendly, and which is easy to understand.  Dry, pompous, academic style is not going to help persuade anyone to attend or donate to Detroit Mercy.  Your text should read like a pleasant (if concise) conversation.
    • Basic writing quality – it is inexcusable for a university to publish incorrect spelling, grammar, or punctuation.  Note: Cascade Server performs a spell check when you submit changes to a page.  Use this opportunity to check all words, including proper names and acronyms carefully.  Beyond the fundamentals, write well, with tight focus, varied sentence length, appropriate vocabulary, etc.
    • Good use of headings – headings are important to help users browse a page for the information they need, by breaking up content into meaningful parts.

    There are many other aspects of website quality.  However, site keepers (the content experts of an area) should focus on the task of regularly reviewing your content and updating it on the above criteria, and contacting MarCom whenever you need help.

Oversight and Assistance

MarCom staff oversees website contributors and periodically audit all website pages to ensure adherence to web, brand, and design standards.

Always contact MarCom with questions or to request a quality control review. We often find issues that contributors were unaware of so it is better to be safe than sorry.

If MarCom staff do find issues, at our discretion, we will either:

  • contact you to have issues corrected
  • correct issues directly according to our standards

MarCom may suspend any user’s Cascade access. This may be necessary when a user fails to correct issues in a timely manner, or a user repeatedly fails to follow guidelines for content, design, branding, usability, or technical coding. Such suspensions will be in effect until the user completes additional training with MarCom, or until further notice.

Cascade users will receive notifications of system changes, training and other pertinent information related to your role. These notifications usually are sent via email. It is imperative that you follow all directions and schedule training as prescribed.