In 2009 i finished my diploma thesis, supervised by Prof. Dr. Stefan Asmus and Tom Hirt. The thesis explores the digital communication strategies of design universities. In a first step the structure of universities themselves and digital communication were analyzed. The insights were used to analyze and cluster the digital strategies of universities, to show how they use the internet as a platform. As a result, guidelines were create to help universities enhance their digital communication performances.
The theoretical work and the target-group research of this thesis brought to attention, that the internet is the most important communication tool a university has. It is the most frequently used medium for their target audiences. Most people who plan to study and look for a university only rarely visit a lot of potential universities in real, they do it online. Through an indepth analysis of those websites, the sofar useage of this huge potential was assessed.
In the Analysis phase, more than 160 university-websites were rated in a set of categories:
“content”: Quality of information as well as the language used (eg. rather marketing language or scientific language);
“Design & Usability”: a lot of different factors were taken into account from the imagery used to usability and aesthetic qualities;
“consistency”: the problem of consistency arises from navigational and design features. Many universities don’t have consistent information architecture and design guidelines implement, which makes finding information hard;
“technology & services”: taking modern communication technologies like e.g. social networks into account.
In the future market of universities, a strong self positioning and a self speaking corporate image will be very important. The competition between university is growing, not only on a national, but also on an international level. To look into those corporate images of universities the data from the analysis and the clustering was used to create a positioning of the “perceived” educational focus of those universities (science, marketing, art).
From my point of view the results are better than expected. Even if we have a few universities very close to the center, which find it hard to position them self. Most Universities try to position themselves and do it quite good. And a few even achieve very good results. When we compare this visualization with the results from the comparison of qualities, we can see that a clear positioning is in most cases a result of good design.
On the other hand universities, even if they have a strong and clear message, should ask themselves, is this who we want to be. Are we really all about marketing or don’t we want to represent at least a slight touch of a scientific standards. And scientific oriented universities should take the same question into account, and ask themselves is it really all about science or shouldn’t we present our science in a more marketing like approach to be prepared for future competition.