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Web Site Audit Overview

Schools of public affairs, policy and administration rely on their web sites as their primary vehicle for reaching and engaging their key audiences - prospective students, employers, faculty members, members of the community, and the media. These audiences increasingly turn to the internet as their first source for information and answers  to critical decision and so a school’s web site must be effective. A school’s web site must achieve the following:

 

-Be easy to find on the internet

-Provide audience-relevant information

-Be easy and efficient to use

-Must connect with users so that the school can start building a relationship with them.

 

To ensure that the members of the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration (NASPAA) are all taking full advantage of the online medium, Forum One Communications offers this web site audit service.  Forum One Communications has been a leading web strategy advisor to nonprofit and public policy-focused organizations since 1996, providing online strategic planning, web usability and “user experience” design, web technology development, and ongoing management of web sites and other online services.

 

This web site audit is an initial review of how well a web site for a school of public affairs and administration is functioning – from the perspective of its online prominence, the “user experience” it provides, the effectiveness of the web site technology, and the value of its site services and functions. Forum One Communications will conduct the web site audit across these key factors, including benchmarking the site against other schools for some factors, and providing Forum One’s expert assessment of where the school could improve its web site performance. The audit will provide schools with answer to these key questions:

  • How well does a web site perform against standard best practices for similar web sites?
  • What are ways to improve the effectiveness of a web site in serving the interests of audiences including potential students, employers, faculty members, and the media?

 

The audit will be conducted by Forum One staff and summarized in a three-page report. Forum One’s audit team will also be available for a 45-minute phone consultation with the school about the audit results and recommendations.

Web Site Audit Components

The key components of the audit include:

1. Prominence Assessment

The web is the primary vehicle for students and others to seek information about graduate programs, and so it is essential that web sites be highly visible online for the potential users who are searching or browsing. The audit will assess this through:

  • Review of the online prominence of a school on web search engines and blog search engines compared to a set of five other graduate schools.
  • Review of the prominence of a school online in association with up to five selected key words or phrases.
  • Expert assessment of a school’s overall prominence -- where it is strong, where it could be stronger, and tactics to improve.

2. Usability / User Experience Review

A web site will be successful if the most important users of the site can quickly and easily find what they need – in other words if a site is highly “usable” for its key audiences. Schools of public affairs, policy and administration need their web sites to work extremely well in meeting the needs of several key audiences, especially students, potential faculty members, members of the community, and the media.  The audit will assess the performance of the site through for these audiences through:

 

  • A brief review of the site usability benchmarked against a set of ten usability best practices and industry standards. The evaluation will score how well the site succeeds in meeting the best practices.
  • A review of the site performance in meeting the needs/interests of key audiences comprised of (a) potential student, (b) employers and (c) journalist. The evaluation will be done by assessing how well, and how quickly, a user can accomplish several pre-defined tasks specific to each of the three key audiences. The assessment will be done by a Forum One usability expert.

3. Web Site Technology Review

Forum One will evaluate the school web site on the basis of some core best practices for web site technology.   This is not a full investigation of the technical web site infrastructure, but more importantly a survey of how well the site meets several standard best practices for web page technology. The evaluation factors highlight technology issues that may impact the site’s search engine performance and performance for users.  Factors include:

  • Page coding practices, including use of distinct page titles, header tags, and other page descriptions.
  • Site speed, evaluating the page weight and download time of key pages on the site.
  • Compliance with Section 508 standards for accessibility.
  • Link quality (i.e. prevalence of broken links), and error page handling.

4. Online Services Assessment: Engaging Users

It is critical for a web site for a school of public affairs and administration  to have services and features which will support active outreach to and engagement with its target audiences.  This is essential to reach and engage with potential students so that they take action to learn more about a school and perhaps apply. This is essential to reach and impress potential faculty members so that they explore more about a school and the opportunities there. This is essential so that members of the media find newsworthy information and expert opinions about which they can quickly compose stories. A number of the factors around which we will evaluate performance include, but are not limited to:

  • e-newsletter signup
  • Use of blog(s)
  • Feedback/inquiry forms
  • Student / alumni testimonies
  • Faculty research library
  • Alumni networking tools
  • Content timeliness
  • Use of multi-media for persuasion
  • Contact information
  • Steps for action

5. Audit Report and Consultation

Forum One will provide for the school the following:

  • A summary three-page report with findings and recommendations
  • A 45-minute phone consultation with Forum One’s lead analyst and one additional Forum One expert (an expert in either Usability, Technology, or Online Strategy)

Price and Schedule

The fee for the web site audit described above is $1,450, payable in advance.

 

Forum One can generally complete a web site audit within a two to three week period.

 

Contact and Contract Info

Contact Forum One’s Chris Wolz via email (use naspaa@forumone.com) with “NASPAA web site audit” in the subject line, and he will answer questions and provide the necessary contract.  

 


Appendix:  About Forum One Communications

Forum One Communications is a full-service web strategy and technology consulting firm focused on "intellectual-commerce" -- the realm of ideas, public policy and social issues, and online communities.  Since 1996 we have worked with hundreds of clients to develop and implement web strategies that enable them and their target audiences around the world to communicate and collaborate about important policy issues.

 

 

Forum One’s expertise includes:

  • We work with clients to develop Internet strategies that reinforce their organizational goals and objectives.
  • We evaluate our clients’ web efforts – assessing how well their baseline services are performing and identifying where and how they can accomplish more online.
  • We build dynamic, database-driven web sites through effective use of information architecture, design, programming, and content management.
  • We produce easy-to-use administrative interfaces that allow clients to add, delete, and edit information from any computer anywhere in the world.
  • We help clients grow their web project efforts – from web site traffic, to increased collaboration, to better services and tools.
  • We focus on measuring the impact of internet efforts through monitoring and evaluation, web-based surveys, and services to track web site traffic.

We work with our clients to support all of their technical needs, including managed hosting and 24/7 on-call monitoring.


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