UA Web Branding
- Website Awards: nominations are open; awards to be announced in December
- IT Summit coming up before the next meeting; there’s still time to sign up with lunch included
Discussion on UA Website Branding
with Barrett Baffert (New - Director, Digital Marketing, University Relations) and Tom Bourgeois: (Executive Director, Campus IT Operations)
Barrett introduced himself. He’s new to the UA. Last job: Fox Sports – led responsive redesign and brand overhaul. Gave him experience with bringing sub-brands under a main brand. It’s parallel to UA units with different identities coming under UA identity.
His overall objective: bridge the gap between University Relations and other units. He has heard a number different questions and concerns about the current process. What does University Relations want, what are priorities, timelines? He doesn’t have the answers yet but he will let us know as he learns. He will be the person to contact with questions and concerns.
Specific topic for today: college/department/school-level branding. Generally: how to make campus-wide brand development more efficient, get unit voices heard earlier in process and have University Relations’ reasoning discussed earlier in process.
Tom and Barrett: What do we call this? It’s difficult to scope: “brand development,” “engagement,” “stewardship”? It gets very broad and abstract. It’s about conveying collective identity and individual unit identify within the brand. Is it a banner, look & feel, set of guidelines? Barrett: is “sub-brand” offensive? [No response from the audience.]
Barrett: What I know.
- At some point there will be a finalized design delivered as an annotated PSD. There will be a presentation with explanation of why certain choices were made.
- If University Relations hands over design to 100 units we’ll get 100 different websites
- We want a web experience for users with consistent look and functionality.
- The primary audience for this design is prospective students.
What if your unit isn’t focused on prospective students? The plan is to prioritize recommendations for unit developers/designers. We know it’s not realistic to expect that all units can cram business needs into a single model and we don’t want to define business priorities for units. We ask that units communicate to us how the proposed design doesn’t fit their needs. And we ask that units try to propose solutions, preferably that will work for 3 or more units. Then those can be incorporated as options for other units.
Tom: My job is to facilitate dialog. You can bring concerns to Barrett directly or to me and I can pass them on. We are working on developing a platform for sharing the assets. That includes discovering what assets are available, determining how to package them, and working on infrastructure so that what we get is both developer-friendly and can be kept up over time so everyone can be confident the assets there are the right ones. It’s in its infancy. We’re looking at box.com. I encourage everyone to get box.com account through UITS (https://account.arizona.edu/welcome) while we’re waiting for something more developer-centric.
Barrett (questions to get the dialog started):
How many attend both UA Web Developer and the Friday brand meetings? [Majority of hands raised]
What’s the difference between the two meetings? Is it that UA Web Developers is mostly developers and the Friday meetings have more different types of people attending?
Mike Hagedon: The Web Developers Group has been around for a much longer time and focuses on a wide range of development topics. The Friday meetings are focused on a more specific task and are more short-term.
Barrett: How many people need to answers about brand now (because this is holding you up or creating anxiety within your department) and how many can wait until brand decisions? [More hands raised for needing answers now]
How can I help?
Audience: It’s confusing: we hear talk about web branding but the web ranges from simple content pages to complex web applications, internal to external. The discussion isn’t covering full range: it seems mostly content pages have been discussed, but almost nothing for web applications.
Barrett: This is a theme I’ve heard consistently: is this design meant to be one-size-fits-all?
- The line between websites and web applications is blurred but we’re still talking about it as two different things.
- Is it accurate to say the design in the PSD will be meant for non-research, content pages?
Barrett: Basically yes. There’s lots of room for definition of requirements. I'd like to get to the point in Friday meetings where we’re looking at concrete examples and seeing how we can address specific issues. We need to break down the problem into manageable bites.
- It seems like the big divide is audience: employees vs. students and that there will naturally be more of a priority to be concerned with branding for outside-facing applications.
- Sub-department developers get requests for features to meet their unit’s own branding/marketing needs. Will there be guidelines for fitting new functionality into the larger UA brand? If we have to get approval for every feature it will create a problem.
Tom: It would be great if we can have some kind of forum for exactly that kind of thing. The web is do dynamic; that would be a way to address changing needs.
Audience: As far as I know University Relations or Ologie are not working on modules or components for web applications’ interactive elements right now. So any attempt to design an interactive application that is “on-brand” is purely speculative right now. Is that right?
Barrett: Over time it would be nice. In the meantime it would be good to collectively adapt brand guidelines. Let’s discuss a given module in a meeting and create something that can be reused. University Relations doesn’t have the ability to review approve everything so individual units can take advantage of that and create solutions.
Audience: It would be nice if there were a few flexible guidelines for color schemes or design elements that could be implemented independently instead of having to hash through every detail.
Barrett: The design elements are one thing but I would also hope we all want similar features on different sites (e.g. Blog A and Blog B) to behave as much the same as possible. I’d love to see units sharing solutions.
Audience: This is a top priority for us. I’m having trouble communicating what’s happening on branding to our dean. He was led to believe it would just be a Drupal theme. We’re about ready to sacrifice having input in order to get a template as quickly as possible. I’m not sure if I join the pilot, will it help me get my own site done faster?
Barrett: I need to find a way to get the message to pilot groups’ managers that, whatever happened in the past, this is what the plan is now and we appreciate your team participating. The idea of the pilot program is that internal development teams will own a specific component of the University Relations-recommended design: define requirements, document, put assets in a repository, improve, and iterate. If you don’t want to be a part of the pilot, that’s fine. I have “new guy optimism” though: I think this should mean that a given group only needs to work on one component, not everything and we can iterate collectively and learn as a team to find as few solutions as possible to the needs that not everyone shares.
Audience: Please keep in mind that in addition to employees and students some units serve primarily an external audience. Also keep in mind that different units across campus have different levels of technical ability to implement assets that are created.
Tom: This is what we mean by saying we need to figure out the appropriate packaging for assets and we will be looking at different methods to meet different needs.
Barrett: We need to do this in small bites. We don’t want marginalize units whose business doesn't fit into the bites that we work on first so we need to think to about how the solutions will serve them too.
Audience: If the idea is to share more complex solutions it would be good if there was some consulting or support to help units with less technical expertise implement them.
Barrett: This would be a good subject for a Friday meeting.
Audience: We have lots of developers who aren’t CSS experts. They want code they can plug into their applications, not guidelines.
Barrett: We understand that no one wants just documentation. And we know we have teams on many different platforms. To be determined: how to we share assets in the way that benefits most people?
Audience: What happens if a unit’s design is not approved?
Barrett: As far as I know, we only have carrots, no sticks.
Tom: We don’t have that kind or organizational structure and we don’t want it.
Audience: I’ve gotten the impression from Friday meetings: “Interpret the brand as best you can and if you have to go live, do it.” Are you saying now we have to get approval from University Relations?
Barrett: I get lots of procedural questions like that, that I’m not really ready to answer yet. Some people in University Relations are concerned that if one group launches, everyone will. What matters to me is that people are able to move forward with their business objectives and we continue to focus on iteration and coming to a center over time. I can't give you an “official” answer at this point.
Audience: The most useful thing will be to see each other’s iterations and get feedback so we don’t go too far in a direction that won’t work.
Mike Hagedon: In closing, what can we, the Web Developers’ Group, do to help move the process forward? How can we share better?
Barrett: Keep the conversation going. Share and ask questions. One last thing, if you have problems with the web fonts, let us know.
For reference, here is the information on the web fonts that Barrett sent out before the meeting:
Step 1: If your website is going to use one of the hosted Web fonts that are part of the UA's Web brand standards, you will need to enable view access for email@example.com in each Google Analytics account that tracks your site/s.
This access will be used to ensure the University is complying with its licensing agreement with FontShop, and to provide overall campus Web analytics.
Step 2: Send email to Chris Green (firstname.lastname@example.org) so he is aware of the new access. He will change your permissions on brand.arizona.edu. Then, visit the URL below for the embed code. Contact Chris with any usage issues.
The recording of the meeting (audio-only) is available at: https://sas.elluminate.com/p.jnlp?psid=2014-10-08.1455.M.144B1F04FF07257CCF2AF2B091DB33.vcr&sid=2009207