Ideas, insights and inspirations.

Over the last 25 years, Elliance has developed .edu websites using proprietary, open-source and commercial grade content management systems (CMS). As one of the few technology agnostic agencies, we try and support the prior investments of our clients. However, for medium to large colleges and universities, we recommend Hannon Hill’s Cascade CMS (content management system). Here are five reasons why: 1. Cascade CMS Allows Us to Implement our “Smart Page Builder”. The traditional way to build a website is using page templates. However, when constructing large websites with many schools and departments, Elliance has developed a lego-style assembly of building blocks to create customized pages. We’ve extended the Cascade CMS to construct a “Smart Page Builder” tool which combines building blocks to create all website pages easily and cost-effectively via a single interface. In sharp contrast to template-based websites, this gives our clients the flexibility to create custom layouts as needed for various parts of the website. This dramatically reduces … Continue reading

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Over the last 25 years, Elliance has developed .edu websites using proprietary, open-source and commercial grade content management systems (CMS). As one of the few technology agnostic agencies, we try and support the prior investments of our clients. Occasionally, we are asked to make a recommendation on whether to build the higher education website in Drupal or WordPress, especially if the client can’t afford to invest in a commercial grade CMS. Here is our take on this important question. The Origin Story Matters To answer this question, it is important to look back at the origin stories of WordPress and Drupal. At the dawn of the age of user-generated content and the death of authoritative voices, WordPress was started as a DIY blogging platform for everyone. It was designed to be an easy, point-click-and-start-publishing web platform that enabled anyone, irrespective of their technical knowhow, to share their opinions and passions. In contrast, Drupal was created as an open-source content management … Continue reading

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Making a business case for investing in a comprehensive website redesign to ROI-minded, quant-driven cabinet members is vastly different than making a case to marketing leaders who intuitively understand the value of a great website. For quantitatively inclined cabinet members, here are five ROI metrics that we have used to justify the investment in a comprehensive website redesign: 1. Better Student Quality: Fortifying program pages and the “why us” pages motivates better-fit students to raise their hands, dissuading wrong-fits from applying. You should expect to see conversion rates improve by as much as 25%. 2. Reduced Bounce Rate: Improving page architecture results in engaged traffic to your website. This should reduce your website bounce rate so it sits between 20% and 30%. The industry average exceeds 50%. 3. Stronger Google Rankings: Baking search engine thinking into every phase of redesign enhances your website’s Google rankings. One year after relaunch, you should see an increase in search engine traffic by 25% … Continue reading

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In working with over 100 colleges in the last 25 years, we have learned that website projects are a catalyst for transforming a college — stakeholders are aligned, power structures are reconsidered, the organization is energized, a new inflection point is created, and destiny becomes attainable. To realize the true promise of redesigning your website, five essentials are necessary: Wise Strategy Revenue Strategy, Communication Strategy and Search Engine Ranking Strategy are the three building blocks of a Website Strategy. In redesigning your website, these three components must be orchestrated, prioritized and baked into every aspect of development and design. Ultimately, you become the story you choose to tell, and that story begins with wise strategy. Beautiful Design Strategy is invisible. Good design makes it visible. Milton Glaser once said “There are only three reactions to a piece of design: no, yes or WOW! Wow is one to aim for.” We agree. Responsive, mobile first, and beautiful design deepens meaning, delights … Continue reading

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Higher education clients often ask us for guidance on content management system (CMS). They are wondering if they should work with a web development company that offers a proprietary CMS system, a commercial CMS system, or an open-source CMS system. In this blog post, I’ll define the three types of systems: Proprietary CMS Systems These are developed, maintained and supported by boutique shops such as BarkleyREI, Whitewhale and others. Typically, clients will inherit them as part of the web site development project, will pay an annual licensing fee, and turn to them for customization and version upgrades. You can’t really find talent in the open market to enhance these systems and you typically don’t have access to the source code for making any changes to the system. For better or for worse, you are essentially locked into that relationship with the boutique. Commercial CMS Systems These systems are developed, maintained and supported by companies solely focused on the CMS systems. … Continue reading

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