TNT10 Got Centerpiece? So Does Everyone Else.

Michael Fienen 
Director of Web Marketing, Pittsburg State University

The audio for this podcast can be downloaded at


Michael Fienen: I am Michael Fienen, I am the CTO for nuCloud. We use interactive campus map stuff. You've probably seen us giving away crap. We’ll have some stuff later on today. I’m also a writer for .eduGuru. Show of hands, everybody reads, yes. Got an RSS feed in your readers and everything. You should check it out if you don’t, lots of good stuff there. The video, the video again from the pre-keynote, we’ve got it up already.

I’m also the director of Web Marketing for Pittsburg State University that is my full time job. It’s kind a of what I do occasionally when I’m bored. If you want to follow me I’m Fienen on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and that craft. And then if you're tweeting, I will read the back channel afterwards.

You’re welcome to talk badly about me however you want. Is Tony -- I don’t see Tony yet. That’s disappointing. He always is fun to talk bad about me. Anyway, #highedwebtnt10, do whatever you want. So, to get started. What I want to do is I want to get everybody, audience participation first thing, I want everybody to read with me.


I’m going to count down, 3-2-1 and I’m going to click the slide and then read whatever is there. I swear it’s not bad. Sort of. But if you promise me that to start.

Audience 1: Are you saying read out loud?

Michael Fienen: Yes, read out loud. I want everybody to say it. I want you to shout it at me, OK? So I’m going to -- 3, 2, 1, we suck.


Michael Fienen: Awesome. That went better than I could have expected. No, I do that for a reason though. I want to start this presentation as low as humanely possible so that we have nowhere to go but up, right? So that’s a good way to get things rolling, I think. But really what I want to do -- this is not a bad presentation and I’m not going to be disparaging anybody as much as I like to. I actually have three goals, and the three goals I want you guys to walk away from this presentation with is first, I want to inspire you a little bit, right? I want you to walk away from here with some ideas, maybe some thoughts, something you can take back and go, maybe we could do this.


The second thing I want is I want to motivate you, right? And this kind of goes back to what Doug told us during orientation. You’re going to go away from here with tons and tons of ideas. Try to do one of them. That’s all you really need to worry about and I don’t care if it has anything to do with what I talk about. I don’t care if I give you motivation to do something you’ve got out of another presentation. Just go do something.

The third is the hard one though. The third one is the one that takes a little bit of time and effort and that’s, I want to get your brain into a mode to think about how to innovate because innovation is what... hard about what we do, right? It’s hard to go out there and be new and be cutting edge and always out there doing and doing and coming up with all these new stuff. And that sort of the cracks of what are we talking about today. It’s this idea that we’re all starting to work in this zone. And we need to get out of that zone. So, to start things off, I’ve got to go to the past and when I talk about the past, I’m really talking about getting into the dark ages of our websites. That’s roughly 10 years ago.


I picked this specifically though because, one, it was easy. Ten years is a nice round number. But, two, about 10 years ago we all had a site by that point. We’d all got into a position where we’d set up a site, maybe we’ve gone through a redesign, maybe we were getting ready for our first redesign and we were starting to maybe pull in some of those first departments that have been rolled and it started trying to get some stuff put together.

I’m going to look at just a few of these like Boston University. Actually, had a very nice start. They have a visual Centerpiece which I’ll get to in a moment. They kind of got together with this little navigational guide down here and some tabled layout which, yey. Actually, this is a great example of what we were working with 10 years ago, right? Can you feel the 640-by-480 just oozing out of the screen right now? Good example of the constraints we were working within.

University of Missouri starting to place audience-based navigation. Kind of a new thing forum, us, dear God I don’t know. I think I got shot in the face by a... canon here because it’s live. It’s like, hey! You click here.


Harvard also kind of like Missouri though, it’s a -- they were more task oriented rather than audience based. The thing about all of these sites, the thing that really makes it kind of cool to go back and look at what people were thinking 10 years ago is that everybody was doing things differently. We did this for one good reason. The people working on these sites back then were clueless. I mean that in a nice way.

I’m not trying to say you know the people -- and I’m sure some people here -- who’s here 10 years ago working on these websites? Say, I’m not saying anything bad about you guys. What I am emphasizing is that, we don’t have what we have now. We don’t have, or we didn’t have the no... research that was talking about what students expect, what people are looking for. UI research, all of this stuff now that we can lean on and go here’s the things that we are pretty sure worked right. And so, it made things kind of exciting. The way we were working was a lot different. We were doing a lot of experimenting.


Who knows what we had, go try it, see what happen, measure it and maybe do some changes. The thing was, we had no fear because if a site went down 10 years ago, if it was down for a few minutes, we’ll fix it, get it back up, good deal. Now, if your site’s down for two minutes, how many of you will have you phones ringing? Yeah, that quickly. I’m down for one minute, I’ve got enough people right now... one minute and I will have a phone call in my office.

It’s hard to be daring when you got that much pressure on your websites. And that’s part of the problem. So today we’ve changed a little bi, right? We don’t work the same way that we used to work. Now, we take ourselves much more seriously. Not that it’s a bad thing. We have to do that because as an industry, we’ve really changed into something that is much more legitimate, basically.

We’ve built our industry. We’ve given ourselves titles. Director of web marketing, Web marketing manager, UX designer. These kinds of things because we know it all and we’re trying to take ourselves seriously but we want other people to take us seriously.


We’ve kind of changed our edge. That’s what’s happened. Before we were kind of like the machete; we’re sharp, we’re hacking stuff, we’re doing whatever we feel like. Now, we’re kind of like a finely honed knife. We’re still sharp, we’re still cutting but we put it in a different way and we take care of ourselves a little bit differently.

To give you an example, there’s a good word that I think could kind of qualify how we worked on it; started cool. As an example, I worked on our CMS to develop a job system. This job system was designed because the way our career services office was working was terrible... documents all kinds of stuff. No consistency.

I got in there, we’ve built an RCNS and I said, what can we do to make this a little bit better, right? What can we do to add some value elsewhere? And so I said, let’s build and RSS feed out of it. I’ve got... content that’s easy to do at that point. And so I built it, it worked, I dropped it into Twitter, on the Facebook and I say, “You know what? That’s kind of cool.”


Then recently, I started working on our video site. As I was working on this, I said, “Let’s do this right. Let’s give us some tools that we can use outside of that project.” And in doing that I ended up building some plug-ins for our content management system that pulls in adjacent data, that got into oh, and bad stuff. And I’m like, “This is cool.” That’s the difference. And web developers can pick up on it. You’ve got stuff if you do that’s cool and then you’ve got the stuff that’s cool. That’s what’s changed about us.

We’ve started to conform. We’re slowly kind of working within these bounds. We’re starting to talk to each other. We’re starting to do a lot of the same stuff. And in doing that we’re using these words like branding standards, marketing identity, these things that legitimize ourselves not only within our own industry but when we’re working with others. These are hurdles to us. That’s the big deal. I just talked to somebody last week, as a matter of fact, about the hurdles they were facing in a rebranding effort.


Their committee had come together and put together all of these do -- those documentation they said, “This is our font. This is going be the official font of our group.” And we all kind of know what that pain is like. This is what we use for our word marks and things like that. The problem is... the web person involved with that process. And so they show up and they... hey, we’re going to do everything with this set of font called Whitney. Everything.

I want -- yes, I hear the groans. Let that thinking. I’m not talking about just the word mark. I’m not talking about just the navigation. They had set it up where that would be everything. Body text all of it. Of course, we as web people understand, you can’t do that kind of stuff. It doesn’t work that way. And so it became a hurdle and she says to me, “I’m already on it. I’m already talking to them explaining why we can’t do this.” But because we’re forced to work within these other worlds now, it becomes a problem. The redesign is what has brought all of these up because in the redesign we’re starting to work with marketing people, with PR people, with the academics and all of these different areas and that’s become a real challenge for us.


Over 1,200 sites have been redesigned in just the past three years. Raise your hands. Three years ago or earlier you have redesigned, right? Look at you. Keep your hands up for a second. Your in a league with 1,200 other people just since 2,000 -- you can put your hands down now. I just wanted you to feel this camaraderie building. Stewart Foss is a great guy over at eduStyle -- everybody knows eduStyle, yes, just looked at it, seen it at some point.

These are just the sites he knows about, the ones that had been submitted. Think about how many others are outside of that. We feel each other’s pain. We know what this is like and not only that, so do the firms that we worked with; the vendors, the design firms, the consultant, these people understand. And it’s starting to show on our homepages. The reason for that... that was... to become... with all of these. We understand how it works and when we do that, things begin to normalize.


Before, we may move fast, we move slow, we’re going through a red tape, we’re getting held up in it all over the place. Now, we’re starting to work in this area, right? We’re starting to... bouncing up back and down we’re kind of getting them to hear. It’s good for us because our process has become much smoother. We get faster sites that are higher quality, that are easier to deploy and update. And then the vendors get to get out of our case faster with our money and move on to the next client, right?

Normalization is not a bad thing but it has a side effect whether intentional or not... that’s delusion. Technological delusion is something we’ve lived with for quite a while now. Raise your hand and -- I keep people to raise their hand, maybe I should -- stand up. Will you stand up for me if I asked? OK. I tried, no, I tried.


Michael Fienen: I figured maybe after... maybe after lunch you might want to get some exercise going on. No. How many people have either their own or have direct access to -- through a friend or family or work one of this? Look at this. Look around. Look at how many people have access to a digital SLR something that until just the past 10 years or so was really the realm of the professional photographer.


If you don’t have thousands of dollars, you weren’t getting into this. I am not a professional photographer, let me be very clear. I am barely a good amateur photographer but you will not get my D80 out of my hands if I were dead. I love that thing. That’s technological delusion.

To put it a little simpler, everybody knows one Mr. Zach Morris yes? Everybody remembers Zach Morris in this film. Everybody knew that guy back in the late ‘80s or early ‘90s, the one guy who had the bad jacket, the... and the big freaking cell phone. He was like the only guy you knew that had a cell phone. Don’t talk bad about him because that guy was me in high school and I will come after you. No, but now, everybody now has a cell phone.

We’ve gone to the second phase, right? How many people smart phone in here? ... very unique audience but lots of people have smart phones now. We’re moving into the second phase of delusion. It’s not just having the phone, we have great phones.


That’s the trickle-down effect that we see. This affects our homepage though in some different ways, first off, in what we use. Think about JavaScript, right? jQuery, Mootools, Dojo, these frameworks that we use now. How many people have a Centerpiece using jQuery? Mootools? No Mootools people. No Dojo people here probably, right? OK, so jQuery is where we’ll stick. jQuery is a great tool because it makes jQuery accessible.

I am not a programmer. I will never sell myself as one. I suck at Javascript, frankly but I’m awesome at jQuery. I can sling that stuff around like nobody’s business because it has deluded what we can do. And again, not using that word in a bad way. I’m going to say that a lot. Delusion is not a bad concept. It’s made things available to us that we never had before.

But as we do it more and more you can start to pick things up, right? The transitions we use, the effects we’re using. You can sniff it out after a while. Same thing happens in CSS -- the frameworks, Blueprint, 960, Yahoo Grids, these things are frameworks that deludes CSS through a way to make it accessible and quick to prototype and work with.


There’s one -- huge one that nobody every mentions and we all, for the most part have one of these, Content Management System. We buy these for the very purpose that they delude technology so that the 80-year-old secretary in the art department can go and maintain their faculty listing on their webpage, right? That’s why we own them.

That’s the problem. We’re creating industry homogeny. I don’t know if I made that term up or not. It sounds good though. What’s happening is that we as an industry, and not just us, other industries as well, are starting to kind of work into this area where we start working together, we start kind of collaborating and talking. And what happens is this, that owner looks like the pet, so to speak. As we talk together and work together we start to get similar things happening and this is great because it’s an awesome sign of collaboration.


And that’s wonderful to see. I love working with people. I worked with a guy recently, they were doing an admission site, he’s using Geolocation XML to customize their admission page and like, that’s awesome, he’s like, here is the code, thank you, it’s great. I love doing that.

Another example is, for instance, our news page. I just launched this. I love it. It’s a huge upgrade from where we were and I stole this thing. I stole this and I ran from this folks. Fienen has a very nice page. I love how they integrated video. I love how they do their sidebars. And like, you know what? I can do that. I’m too lazy otherwise, I’m not a designer. I admit it. But that’s what happens.

This is affecting our homepages. This is us. Pittsburg State University. I love our redesign. We came not just one but really two generations in the process. But if you notice, we’ve got all the same problems that a lot of folks have. Even though it’s nice, here’s our Centerpiece, we’ve got sort of our top navigation, here’s our audience navigation, the counter events which I assure you it gets used constantly, news, application buttons, click things up the top, I mean, really, we still have a lot of those same problems happening, right?


Because we’re answering one big question. Everybody is trying to answer the question of how. How do we answer all of these audiences? How do we deal with all of these issues? How do we make our -- all our 72 audiences happy and our 83 vice-presidents and the one president that can fire all of us in a heartbeat? How do we make that happen? And there’s no good answer because really, it’s a trap.

All we end up doing is deluding everything we do to the point that it loses value, yes? Because, really, in trying to make everything work on that homepage and trying to make that Centerpiece do a bunch of different stuff, it’s really doing nothing. Here’s a look at University of Alabama. Is anybody from Alabama? Anybody? Bueller, no, OK. I love this actually. It’s very clean. It’s very crispy. They did a great job with their redesign.


I’m going to put through some more here and I want you to just kind of look at these as I start going. I just kind of pay attention... very quickly but try to look at what’s happening here. Boston, everybody loves Boston. They have always done a great job with their website. I really love this. Chico, if Tony were here I would make a snarky comment but -- oh, well. Freid Hardman, I’ll come back to these guys in just a second.

John Hopkins, great visual stuff. Lakeland College, we’ve got Leftbridge. We’ve got Lewis and Clark, here’s Maryland, Nottingham, Stetson, Toledo, Wesleyan, Wolanog, Wooster, Worcester Polytechnic Institution... I’m sorry, I'm Kansan OK? Do you notice anything?

No, you’re all wrong. First things first, if you noticed anything, I hope you... they’re all well done. Every one of these schools had done a fantastic job with the redesigns and getting these tools in place and I want to emphasize that because otherwise, this may come up very negative and I know I’m a negative person so we want to work on that.


They’re also very pretty. They all flow in well. They all sit inside of these nice redesigns very nicely. The best thing about all these, there’s one awesome, awesome thing about all of these, there’s no...


Michael Fienen: However -- however, I call out Freid Hardman because by God, we will not let girls and grass take us over.


Michael Fienen: Freid Hardman, anybody, I always have to be careful when I use examples but, OK, nobody from here -- I’ll email him and apologize. There is three categories that these all fall into. All of these Centerpieces kind of have themes, right? The first is the visual. A good example is John Hopkins. You’re looking at stuff that is very centered on the photography of what’s happening; the imagery of campus. It doesn’t mean you can’t click through them because I also click on the other... but the Centerpiece itself is really designed around the act of making you look and stare at the screen and the longer your eyes are here the more likely you are to do something.


The second are the information Centerpieces. These Centerpieces are the ones like in Stetson that have gone in and you’ve got links within your Centerpiece and those will likely not change frequently. The imagery may change. The wrappers may change. But you’re linking in the stuff that you want people to read. Again, random stuff.

The third are the story tellers. Marketing and PR people love these -- love them. Boston, for example, all about spreading the news of campus, right? Talking about the events. Telling about, you know, the co-professor with the tattoos up and down his arms who rides in a motorcycle and comes in on his chopper and does all these stuff. There’s an issue though.

Alright, let me back up one second. There is a fourth kind. I don’t mention it only because the fourth kind is kind of like what we do and it’s sort of the chaotic -- we don’t know what the heck is going on so we’re just going to do a little bit to everything. That doesn’t count but there is a fourth kind.


Here is the thing, all of these have a problem because there was one thing in common. There is nothing on any of these that’s actionable. And I know some of you right now are going to sit there and you’re going to go, what are you talking about? You can click through them. You can go read articles. You can go to the pages that they’ve got.

But the thing is putting the Centerpiece out there and just saying, hey, click here to read more. It’s kind of like having your five-year-old son or daughter on the trampoline and this is where I would normally jump and down, those of you who see me know that I’m not going to do that. Not today anyway.

But it’s like, they go, “Hey, dad, look at me. I learned a trick. Watch me, watch me.” That’s what that's doing. You’re screaming for attention but you’re not doing anything to deserve it. I’m sorry if that comes off snarky. But that’s the reality because we can be doing way, way more -- I’m sorry, it’s like anything actionable. I’ve got to get my clicker going here.


Michael Fienen: Here is where we get in the blanks that time and I’m going to keep this short because boring stats are boring and I know that. So I’ve got three big things I want to head on. If you read that .eduGuru you may have noticed back in September we put up a little survey that talked about how is your Centerpiece doing and give us some information. I took some of that information and have incorporated it here.

One of the first that stood out to me came from one particular school and I am putting one school instead of many and I’ll explain why in a moment. They did the math and figured out that based on how many hits they get on their homepage a month versus how many people click on a Centerpiece item, you get a 0.4% conversion rate.

Point four, four people in 1,000 are clicking on a certain piece. I hope my math on that is right. I think it is. That indicates a huge content strategy problem taking place because you’re not paying attention to what’s going into that Centerpiece. You’re not doing anything to make that better because that’s an abysmal rate. That’s terrible.

We can do way, way better than that. There’s web developers, and there’s content people and there’s marketers especially, that’s the thing.


And here’s why I’m only going to quote you one because I didn’t have numbers from anybody else. Seventy-nine percent of the people who answered the survey said, yes, we have analytics in place. We can track this information. We can do it.

As a web guy, as an analytics guy, what makes me sick to my stomach though is that only 26% of people actually track it. And I want you to think about that because 89% of all of the respondents said their Centerpiece was driven by the marketing or PR. The marketing especially being the core place where we’re looking at the numbers -- were looking at the ROI, and yet, only 26% actually pay attention to those numbers.

The Centerpiece is the absolute top building on your site and we can argue above the fold, below the fold. We can argue that carp day-in and day-out. The fact of the matter is that is the top building on your site. It’s the first thing people see when they come to your homepage and it’s their first opportunity to have to interact with you and yet we’re throwing that opportunity away. We’re relying on insignificant.


We’ve change the meaning of ROI, 0.4% is now good enough to just keep doing things the same way we’re doing them. To keep going on the sort of roller coaster ride and we’re just going to keep pumping out new story every week and see what happens. We’ll put a pretty girl on this one and it will get people to click on it. And that does that work, I swear to you. I’ve looked at analytics the pretty girl always gets the clicks.

Here is the thing, it takes effort. I know that’s hard and I’ve gotten flat for that before on .eduGuru that I right articles and I tell people, sometimes to do our job well we’ve got to put in a little bit of extra work because it’s not good enough to just work from eight to five sometimes. The web moves to quickly. To be committed to what we do sometimes we’ve got to get outside of that box and outside of that comfort zone and say, you know what, after tonight I’m going to go home. I’m going to work on this to make it better. And that’s hard for people.

What’s weird though is that with analytics, we can automate a lot of that. We can run those reports automatically and shoot them over to our marketing director and say, hey, here’s the results of the Centerpieces of this month. Let’s see what we can do to make this better.


I want to look at SMSU for just a minute; Southwest Minnesota State University. Everybody’s heard of this? Yes, no, maybe? Some people are familiar with it? These guys walked away from eduWEB this year during the eduStyle Awards just blowing people away because they did a redesign last year and they had just finished it when I started researching the speech. And I saw their Centerpiece and then immediately caught me is being different from everybody else, right.

And the reason is at the eduStyle Awards, they walked away with best overall website out of everybody. But not just that, they also walked away with the best homepage, and then they walked away with best redesign, and then they walked away with visual design. These folks did a great, great job.

Please tell me if somebody’s here from them, right. Okay. I’ll keep trying then. This is their site, right? Very simple. There’s nothing really crazy or wild about it but they just did a good job, a general maestro. I mean, I have a Centerpiece and I’m not here to try to tell you to get rid of your Centerpieces because these guys were setting the standard.


Here’s the thing, they found the magic sauce. They figured out what to take and pour over that thing and rub it in to make that Centerpiece valuable. Take a look at this. I just screenshot it the other night to get some current stuff so that you can go and look at them yourself. These are just four of them because I had some space that I can’t really fill. I’m not a designer. Look at these for just a second... what you’re looking at because all of these Centerpieces have something that all those other examples I showed you earlier are missing.

They’ve got... it’s magical that we use. Calls to action get you to engage with the people visiting your site. That’s what this is all about, right? We want people to engage with us. We want people to do things so that we can convert them into students and ultimately make the money off of them. Higher Ed or not, we’re here to make money. That’s what keeps us sustain. They use words like click here, sign me up, bookmark this, verbs, they get your brain thinking this way of action.


I’m going to do something. Your brain starts moving within those words. They’re commands. When I was a debater in high school, it was now more years ago than I cared even though I know I looked... it feels bad. One of the first things we learned was in your second rebuttal you do not give the judge a choice. You don’t go up there and say, “Hey, I hope you vote for me. I hope we did good enough for you.” No.

When you’re talking to somebody in those situations you tell them what to do. You tell them, I want you to vote for me. I command you to vote for me. We did this better than them. So you’re going to come here. That’s what we need to look for in these Centerpieces. But, I have to caveat this, because this is just a symptom of a bigger problem; a bigger kind of design and web problem that we have going on. And I could very easily stand here and say, OK, so here’s what you walk away with, leave here, go redesign your Centerpiece, put some call to action in it and awesome, great job, we’ll see you guys later.


I’m not stopping very well because that’s not good enough. If all we do is copy SMSU we’ve only normalized ourselves again. We’ve only copied each other and put ourselves back in this box. We’ve got to keep things rolling. If SMSU is still using that exact same Centerpiece two years from now they will have failed at one of the core points of the redesign because you have to keep going and you have to keep improving.

You can never stop at that because that’s why we’re here. That’s why we love the web, right? We love coming in here and try new things and new technologies and getting involved in ways that people hadn’t thought of. That’s why we love what we do. And I kind of always use the example and I know it’s a little bit overused but of the house redesign or a remodel rather.

When you remodel your house and you redone it, you don’t say, it looks good, see you guys. You have to keep mowing the yard. You’ve got to touch up the paint. You’ve got to keep floors swept. You’ve got to keep it up. You’ve got to keep going and moving. And to do that, you have to know what to take care of. When you look at the grass you say, “Yard is tall, I’m going to mow it.” right?


To do that, you’ve got... this is my mantra, measure and adjust. I’ve said it before in articles. I’ve said it in other presentations. You have to measure and adjust constantly because that’s how you keep improving. And you need to make sure your legs are long enough to not let your laptop fall on the floor otherwise, you may break things.

But before you can measure, there’s one other step that have to take place first, right? You’ve got to set goals. You’ve got to know what to measure. You’ve got to say, hey, we want to increase the number of click use in our Centerpiece by X amount and then maybe we want to increase the engagement of those pages by this amount. You need to set those goals not just for your website but for your self so you’ve got direction of what you’re doing and you know what to measure and then what to improve.

That’s how we get that thing going. We’ve already done that once. Everybody in here was raising their hand when we redesign, yes. We’ve already done that. We’ve already met one goal. We took something very ugly and we made it pretty -- most of the time.


We’ve got to get rid of these old conventions that we’re using, right? We can’t just keep doing things the same way we’ve always done them because that doesn’t work. We’ve got to always be thinking ahead and planning ahead on how we do stuff. And to do that, that requires some new standards to be set. That requires new standards not only professionally, we know that, we always want to try to set the bar and do things better than everybody else, but sometimes that means setting new standards for ourselves as well.

We’re professionals. We’re in an industry that takes itself seriously now, yes? So that means we’ve got to look at ourselves in a way that says, how can I challenge myself today? Does it mean more work? Yeah, it probably does. But really we’ve got to get into that mindset because that’s how we do better. That’s how we make our colleges successful because it’s just not about us, it’s about the... students, it’s about everybody else in reality. First impressions are so important. And I hope those of you who haven’t met me today will walk out thinking that maybe I’m not as insane as I sometimes come across.


Some of you will probably walk out of here thinking I am more insane than I come across. That’s OK. You’re welcome, too. The thing is, one chance to make a fist impression. They’re so important. We’re all here to standout for ourselves and for our schools. We want to standout from that crowd. And I say that because it’s not good enough to be pretty anymore.

I clicked through a bunch of those sites that are all pretty now but didn’t used to be. It’s not enough to keep up. When you go into a career services situation when you’re applying for a job, when you’re interviewing, any career person will tell you straight away that you have to be memorable.

It’s not about being the best because you can’t be the best all the time. But when you apply for a job you can call him and follow up and... so I make sure you got everything right. OK, awesome. You get the interview, you email him, hey, thanks for having me in. I appreciate the time. Here’s a couple of more people that you can call and talk to and get references for me on.


It’s about standing out and keeping yourself in a frame of mind that when people look at you and you got students that you’re competing for with other schools in your region, with other conferences, it doesn’t matter. You don’t have to be the best... all the time, you just need to stand out.

I want to thank everybody today for coming in here. I’m amazed by how many came in, you’re all beautiful except for Tony Dunn which should have been way more funny if he was here. I didn’t have time to take it out.

Anyway, throw out your comments before you leave, I really will appreciate any feedback that you guys give me. If you’ve been tweeting HighEdWeb TNT 10 IM Fienen and I will be happy to facilitate any conversation hopefully two-way rather than one-way.


Michael Fienen: I have more stuff yet. Let’s get some stuff away here.


Speaker 1: You have to hire someone who is not a media director. Before we get to the questions... on the way out, fill those out some time in the next couple of hours and you can drop them off at the... One, as a group put your name as phone number cause there's a drawing of prizes. OK. So with that who’s first? Who’s got the first question?

Audience 1: [31:32 Unintelligible]

Michael Fienen: Give me your address again here.

Audience 1: [31:44 Unintelligible]

Michael Fienen: I’ll tell you straight away that almost everybody does in some way, shape or form. Lane is telling me that she’s a special person. What do we got?



Michael Fienen: I do have presents for coming up here for everybody. So I do have cards up here if anybody wants to grab them, stickers, I’ve got bracelets and stuff you can grab for nuCloud, for Kindle giveaway during the poster session. So she was asking if, are there any good examples of schools that are not using Centerpieces.

Audience 1: [32:17 Unintelligible]

Michael Fienen: OK, so.

Audience 1: [32:23 Unintelligible]

Michael Fienen: Oh, okay. So don’t you blame citing an example. That would be if it’s something you’ve got on every page, it’s more than likely more of a header-type element. And, you know, I’m not telling people to not use Centerpieces because I think they are kind of integral. It’s all about how you use it and how you implement that. And so if you’re looking at something to put up there, just remember to make it interesting, make it something people can use, make it something you can measure and do something with because that’s what’s going to keep people in your site.

Anybody else? I hope this was like whatever it was expecting. I know that this wasn’t as technical as some may have hoped a bit.


Audience 2: [33:03 Unintelligible]

Michael Fienen: Ask him. I’ll be more than happy to ask. I’ll feed... and everybody can read it. Also, all of the results from the survey that I did as well as this presentation, everything else will be made available under a creative comments license. So take it, remix it, do whatever you please with it. I will have that up shortly after this session. I did not have a chance to get it up ahead of time. I apologize. Anybody else? Come on. Challenge me. I feel like I ran short. This is great actually. Yes.

Audience 3: [33:46 Unintelligible]

Michael Fienen: Sure.

Audience 3: [33:51 Unintelligible]

Michael Fienen: So the question is how do you innovate constantly? How do you always experiment? You know, I think I’ve -- those of you who went to Dylan’s presentation earlier talking about doing the skunk works and just kind of, maybe you do it on the side. That maybe how you do it. Always be reading.


There are so many good design resources out there. Things like Pattern Tap that I use quite constantly to look at what other people are doing and get ideas and try to mix those things together. Don’t copy them but just try to come up with inspiration and motivation to innovate.

Audience 3: [34:28 Unintelligible]

Michael Fienen:, yeah, they do a list of -- if you want -- yes, for navigational, Breadcrumbs, they’ve got that. If you want ideas on header graphics for four pages, they’ve got lists, huge lists of all these cool screenshots and things of that nature. It’s a great resource. Yes?

Audience 4: [34:52 Unintelligible]

Michael Fienen: Yeah.


Audience 4: [35:06 Unintelligible]

Michael Fienen: Yeah, you were making people happy with it, yeah. The internal fuzzies sometimes are a challenge and what I would say is, one, it always helps when you have stats to back things up. If you can show that even in the Centerpiece people aren’t clicking on it, you can use that as further to say, hey, we actually need to do something different. We need to find out a better way to push that out.

You can also do some market research. Marketers will love that you’re saying, hey, let’s use this tool for marketing as opposed to just news because our market research says that the only people who care about news are alumni and alumni are not the target of our homepage. That all comes with what kind of strategy you’re using on your homepage. Is your homepage geared towards only prospect of students, only alumni.


Try to keep that stuff in mind as you’re tailoring these tools in your Centerpieces because that will play very heavily into how you determine what goes there, what do we do, who do we make happy in those cases. I did run short.

Did I skip some slides without knowing? Yeah, go ahead.

Audience 5: [36:24 Unintelligible]

Michael Fienen: And that’s one reason why I love SMSU because they took that Centerpiece and turned it into a tool that students could use to sign up for free enrollment, for instance. It was something that they can actually use in what they were trying to do. And that’s what a lot of us are missing and that’s why that’s exactly why I wanted to talk about this because so often, we do use it just as, for instance, a tool to make people happy.


And our site isn’t there to make our internal audience happy, at least not the homepage generally speaking, it should be to address the core marketing needs of our school. And to get those prospect of students to engage with us, the longer they are there, the more they are engaging, the more chance we have to turn them into a student and make money on them.

That idea -- the whole cradle to endowment that got mentioned the other day, great example. We got our cradle to endowment, application to endowment. We’ve got to get them in that door and the longer they’re there, the more chance we have to do something with them. And if they’re engaging, that’s the sign. Otherwise, we’re just, I can say screaming for attention. We’re just saying, hey, I hope you look at this and stay here and read this stuff. Yeah?

Audience 6: [37:49 Unintelligible]

Michael Fienen: OK, sure. Anything that involves directly engaging with any of the programs is great if you’re looking for instance to use a Centerpiece not on your homepage.


Perhaps sites and got Centerpieces or departmental sites that got their own Centerpieces. Looking at ways to -- yeah, you can get rid of that if you want, Lane. I have a different layout so you may just want to hit the escape key or alt-F4. Otherwise, you may just like delete my computer.

Anything that involves, for instance, things that the schools are trying to engage students in and things -- the whole -- request more information but get creative with it. If you got away for instance the -- in our nursing department is a huge department on our campus. It’s pretty widely renowned, so to speak, and so we might build something around that see exactly -- see what the nursing department is doing and get more information on how you can get involved or get involved of what the nursing department is doing right now. Get them to thinking in terms of what action can I with this school right now.


If I’m a prospective student, what can I do to get involved with you guys and play with stuff or come visit campus. SMSU again, a good example, check us out, come see our building. Hey, the nursing department is over in McPhearson’s Hall, come schedule a visit with us. Come down and see the tools we have. Don’t just read about the tools, we want to show you, we want to show you our CPR dummies and the things we stabbed people with and that kind of stuff.

So, not that I’m crazy for stabbing people. I have to fly tomorrow so don’t spread that around.


Michael Fienen: No. I’ve got five minutes left. How did I run so short, was I that nervous? Did I seem that nervous? God.

Audience 7: [39:47 Unintelligible]

Michael Fienen: That depends. And I actually looked at that with some of the survey... the average school is running 4 1/2 Centerpieces like elements -- like rotating elements at that time.


And they varied pretty widely in terms -- like we do weekly. We do one new story in our Centerpiece every week. We have between four and six total so we drop one off every week and replace it. Some do it semi-monthly or bimonthly, every other month whatever, whichever one that is. Some will do it quarterly.

I had some people answer whenever we feel like it. I mean, there -- and the spread was pretty even. So it really comes down to what’s your goal? What are you trying to get across if you’re doing real seasonal stuff, pre-register for enrollment, obviously, that’s not going to be useful after date X.

And so it kind of depends on what engagement you’re trying to encourage. What are you trying to get students to do and how timely will that -- or how long will that remain timely to them? So that drive -- don’t just set up a routine, we’re going to put one new thing out every week because that doesn’t address the core audience. That’s addressing your workflow.


And it’s not about the workflow, it’s about the student needs and student needs will change. Maybe something is relevant for a month. Maybe something else is relevant for five days. Work with that rather than the workflow.

Speaker 2: Do you have a question? Thank you.


Michael Fienen: Thank you all. I appreciate you guys coming in.