March 23, 2019
My coworker Aaron Blau and I attended the OmniUpdate User Training Conference in San Diego, California, where he gave an awesome presentation on web governance, and I got to learn more about their OU Campus CMS (content management system) from an end user’s perspective. Although OU Campus is a complete solution for a CMS, we help colleges and universities with custom template development. We design templates that are flexible and intuitive to use—whether you’re an author, editor, or web developer. As with any CMS, the level of success largely depends on your workflow, staff resources, and strategic goals. If no one uses the CMS because it’s clunky, any digital marketing initiatives will be difficult to launch.
In my previous post, I discussed some of the key factors in evaluating a CMS. Today, I’ll describe how OmniUpdate’s OU Campus sets itself apart.
This year’s conference took place in the sunny and beautiful city of San Diego, where people spend as much time as they can outdoors to enjoy the beach and the many restaurants the city has to offer. OU Campus as a proprietary CMS embodies much of this Californian philosophy of delivering a great experience for the developers, authors, and the marketing staff by making website administration as easy as possible. But what I really love about this CMS is that it’s tailored for colleges and universities out-of-the-box, while providing the flexibility to convert your HTML designs into templates in minutes. In contrast, other CMSs (especially their modules and plugins) try to be a catch-all for everyone’s needs and will overwhelm developers with a myriad of options unrelated to higher education. I
t’s a lot like using a Swiss Army knife when you only need it to cut your steak dinner. For example, with a Drupal e-commerce module you’re likely to see options for shipping, local tax rates, and international freight options. But in reality, you only need to accept payments from alumni donations. Even if you choose to ignore those extra options, they may become attack vectors for hackers if the module remains unpatched by the open source community or if it’s not prioritized by your IT administrator. On the other hand, OU Campus’ code and gadgets (its equivalent of modules and plugins) are actively maintained, and many other features are pre-configured for higher education.
The interface and features are curated for the marketing communications team with an underlying philosophy that the website is primarily a marketing tool. It makes website maintenance easy for the IT administrators, but it also places content ownership back to the marketing or communications department without the fear the website will be compromised.
From the dashboard to the file management system, it is designed for a robust marketing team to coordinate content, not for developers to commit version changes and share code snippets. To extend the website, a single web developer in the marketing department should be able to create an HTML page and convert it into a template without the help of central IT. If support is needed, OmniUpdate offers very fast response with a wealth of resources (videos, documentation, and knowledge base) on their community network website. And with the proper staffing and communication plans, web and content governance can be implemented fairly easy and quickly.
If you have a web developer or digital strategist available, you can leverage the power of Google Tag Manager and Analytics to track visitors across your website and measure performance at a granular level. If you add the admissions department or university foundation into the mix, the collaboration will be much more powerful and your website won’t simply be a virtual viewbook—it’ll become a living marketing tool.
There are many CMSs out there—both proprietary and open-source. OmniUpdate’s OU Campus makes it easy for your marketing team to maintain content on the website more frequently without depending too much on central IT. While any CMS can work fine on paper, we have seen brand standards, governance, and even entire websites evaporate because the technology was too clunky to use until it became “somebody else’s job” to update the website (usually a student worker or the secretary). Other CMSs are designed for a small number of content authors (WordPress), or towards a seasoned development team (Drupal), and leave little control or tools for a professional editorial workflow out-of-the-box.
If a community of authors and editors cannot use or grow around the technology, all digital marketing efforts begin to fall apart. While an open source option may seem attractive with zero upfront costs, it will catch up on the constant maintenance cost in the back-end development and IT infrastructure. With OU Campus, the CMS virtually “just works” for your entire team with a balanced set of tools for the developers, writers, and administrators—so you can focus on marketing your college online.