PSU Web: Future Friendly Campus

by Luke Wroblewski June 10, 2012

In his The Future Friendly Campus presentation at the Penn State Web Conference, Dave Olsen talked about the need for universities to considering what's coming next in digital media and how to better prepare for it.

Why Do We Need To Be Future Friendly?

  • We started from print and many of its characteristics have stuck around: strong layout constraints, tightly coupled content and layout, primarily a “talk to” medium.
  • The Internet instead uses flexible layouts, content and layout can be decoupled, and allows for “talk with interactions. But we still tried to impose control through fixed access, limited resolution support, and the used of silo-ed sets of content.
  • Mobile has highly constrained layouts (smaller screen sizes), a rapidly evolving ecosystem, and allows true “anywhere, anytime” access.
  • 750% increase in mobile usage to West Virginia University Web site. WVU has developed native apps, standalone mobile sites, mobile templates, and responsive designs to cope.
  • We are entering a hyper-connected society. People can access the Internet anywhere they want. What does this mean for us?
  • Do we have to learn new skills, keep up, deliver content, keep up with more devices… this is scary and a bit overwhelming.
  • But there’s hope: a way to cope with mobile and whatever else comes next. Being prepared for what is next is more important than reacting to today.
  • Disruption will only accelerate. Our existing standard, processes, and tools will not hold up. Proprietary solutions will dominate at first and push new technologies forward. The standards process will be painfully slow.

How Do We Be Future Friendly?

  • To deal with this: acknowledge and embrace unpredictability, think and behave in a future-friendly, help others do the same.
  • This is more of a “when you do things, do it with this in mind.”
  • Don’t overreact. Take your time getting used to things, and don’t jump all over the next shiny thing. Tech isn’t always the best solution.
  • 70% of prospective students are happy to browse your current Website on their mobile devices. So relax… a little.
  • Don’t worry about being known. Worry about being useful. The more you meet people’s needs, the better they’ll like you. Aim for tangible utility vs. content delivery.
  • Data and content should be set free. Put as much as possible into data stores and make it available through APIs. The US government is now mandating federal organizations provide APIs. Structure and store your data with the future in mind.
  • APIs are the infrastructure for your future friendly initiatives. You can write once and publish to: iOS app, mobile Website, student portal, websites, and Twitter.
  • Responsive Web design is your best bet for being future friendly if you are a university Website. It makes your content accessible to more devices.
  • 77% of smartphone users use search on their phones. Search leads to indexed Web pages. Links open Web pages, not apps. So don;t forget about the Web.
  • There is an evolution of responsive Web design called RESS: which adds server side components to responsive designs.
  • Plant a seed to start a future friendly site for your organization.