The dilemma of website facing

August 21, 2007

Broadly speaking, websites can be inward facing, aimed at providing services to people in your organization, or outwards facing, aimed at providing information (and sometimes services) to outsiders. The difference is not just a matter of keeping sensitive information from outside people, it is that the two groups generally want completely separate sorts of information; the procedures for arranging workstation support are probably as uninteresting to outsiders as the press releases are to insiders.

I think that this gets especially confusing in universities, because groups in a university have at least two unusual pressures pushing them back and forth: our websites and subdomain structure are generally public and we have lots of new people showing up all the time. The first means that there are no good places to hide websites that are going to be obvious to internal people but invisible to outsiders; the second means that you need obvious websites because people generally don't get taught where all the resources are in a way that sticks.

(For example, I don't know what sort of orientation packets our new graduate students get but I suspect it doesn't include very much about how to get computer support, if only because no one has asked us what should be in that sort of overview.)

Thus, one of the dilemmas of building a website at a university is trying to figure out which way it should face, or if you should try to make it face both ways at once, Janus-like. Around here, it is not always clear which website is (or should be) which.

(The other fun game is trying to pick a name for your internal website or support area that is obvious and memorable but not so obvious that external people will try to visit it and get confused.)

Written on 21 August 2007.
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Last modified: Tue Aug 21 23:15:11 2007
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