Web Communications - Frequently Asked Questions
Following are responses to some of the frequently asked questions asked by clients of Web Communications about the Feinberg website development process and working in Cascade.
Hannon Hill Cascade Server is the official web content management platform for Northwestern University, including the medical school. The Cascade system is accessible though web browser and offers simplified site management to site owners.
The medical school’s main objective is to develop a family of online properties that meet specific objectives for specific audiences, and flow together under the Feinberg brand umbrella.
Since beginning the process of migrating Feinberg sites into Cascade, Web Communications has developed a redesign process that will help clients think more strategically about their web content, helping prepare it for launch and build future content in alignment with organizational goals, best web practices for readability and search, and with definition to who their audience is and what information they want.
In addition to working closely with you to develop an overall online strategy for your organization and helping you build your site in Cascade, we provide:
The first step in moving or establishing your web presence at Feinberg is to complete our Project Request Form. Once you’ve submitted the request, you will be contacted by Web Communications to schedule your project.
Web Communications will present a project plan for your site migration/development. We will partner with your office to guide you through this process and offer substantial support, but the transition will require a significant time commitment on your end. Clients should plan to be available and in the office through the entire project life cycle.
Once you’ve connected with Web Communications and agreed to a project schedule (or even before), there are several things you can do in advance to prepare your project for redesign.
Gather any strategic documents your organization has related to your broader goals. These strategic goals and objectives should be reflected in your site. Share them with Web Communications and consult them when completing our project kick-off survey. Ask yourself big questions:
- Why does our organization exist? Why are we important (to Feinberg, to the community, to the world)?
- What problem do we address?
- How do we address that problem?
- How are we unique to all other organizations doing something similar?
Review your current site with a critical eye. Remove content that is unnecessary. Update content that is outdated. Develop a content wish list: ask yourself and other people in your organization if there is content they wish was included on the site.
Client Roles and Responsibilities
Determine who from your team will be involved in the redesign process. Web Communications has developed some client side (department/institute/center level) role descriptions to outline client responsibilities for site design and management.
- Project Manager: this person will be the main contact between the Web Communications team and the department/center/institute. He/she should have a deep understanding of the operations and strategic goals of the entire department. Responsibilities of this role include:
- Identifying the decision makers and content contributors on the client team
- Prioritizing content in according to broader department/center/institute goals
- Providing approvals (and managing approvals on the client side) to Web Communications for site structure, content, and launch
- Coordinating content development and Cascade training with Web Communications team
- Post-launch management of whole site
- Building site with concern to content strategy
- Ensuring coverage of content updates (having multiple team members trained in Cascade)
- Content Leads (Divisions Lead/Research Lead/Education Lead): these individuals manage the content for the site on the section or even page level. They likely do not have access to the entire site within Cascade, but to those areas related to their subject matter expertise. Responsibilities of this role include:
- Developing content for their section of the site (using Web Communications content templates)
- Training and working in Cascade
- Decision Makers: these people may not be involved with the detail of site development, but their buy-in is crucial to project and site success. These people may be someone in administrative management position or the head of the department/center/institute. Responsibilities include:
- Communicating broader departmental goals to the project team
- Articulating client-side expectations for the site to the project team
- Approving content strategy, site structure, and content (when necessary)
- Cultivating culture that supports the content strategy (that is built to serve the departmental goals)
- Supporting Project Manager in her/his decision making
Whether you are thinking about new content in an existing site or a new site altogether, start with your audience and ask yourself what they might want to know about you. Ask yourself:
- Who are my priority audiences: prospective and current students, alumni, donors, faculty, staff, or public? A website that tries to prioritize all audiences often doesn’t serve any audience, so be honest about who is your highest priority.
- What do I want them to know/what actions do I want my audience to take (e.g., apply to a program, call/email our office, donate to our research, learn about our facilities/programs/research)?
- What is their level on understanding on this topic? (Do I need to provide a basic description of the problem that my research looks to address? Do I need to outline the differentiators of my program compared to those of our competitors?)
- Are you currently fielding questions or calls about your organization that you would like the website to answer?
Please refer to the questions in the strategy section in our “How can I prepare for the transition?” response for more direction on content development.
Please note: Feinberg does not include patient care information. You should not prioritize the patient/care-giver audiences.
Once you have a sense of who you’re talking to, what they want to know, and what you want to tell them, you can start to develop your messaging. Refer to our templates to start building potential pages or just start to bullet out the content you would like to include.
Generally, Cascade training occurs within days of the new site launch. Web Communications will work closely with you through the development process, and will coordinate training with your team.
Feinberg sites are consistent in highlighting education, research, faculty, and Feinberg’s relationship with the broader Northwestern Medicine. There are many common content types that are included on every site, including a homepage slideshow, a giving page for donors, and academic office contact information.
Each site is unique, however, depending on the goals of the organization, technical requirements, and volume of information. Here are some sites that reflect our updated design direction, branded templates, and content strategy, but also account for individual needs of the organization:
This page last updated Oct 25, 2013