What I learnt at HighEdWeb 2018 as a Content Strategist

By Posted in - Accessibility & ChatBots & Content Strategy & Website Redesign on November 5th, 2018 0 Comments Text based image, with "#HEWeb18 takeaways part 2" overlaid on top of white and grey painted background, with one half the of the image is painted a dark greay and the other is left white. Where the colours meet in the middle you can see brush marks.

In her recent takeaway post Louise Shaw, our Research Analyst, focused on her favourite topic – data.

Now get ready to hear three things I learned from HighEdWeb as a Content Strategist…

1. Creating a chatbot might be more affordable than you think

If you’re looking to improve student experience using the latest technology, a chatbot could be the way forward. Chatbots can streamline the communications process, which is especially useful for busy students who expect an immediate response.

BobChat is New York University’s (NYU) chatbot. It is built directly into Facebook Messenger (chosen for its popularity with their key audience demographic). BobChat’s features include information about courses, campuses, locations, places to eat near campus, and ways to give feedback to the University. They use adapted web content to form the answers but have student ambassadors ready if users want to speak to a real human.

Sounds expensive, right? But actually, not really.

Nick Jensen, NYU’s Community and Experience Strategist explains it costs them $300 to make and then $1500 a year to run. Bargain. Their biggest expense is paying student ambassadors to monitor the bot during open hours.

The tools they use to create and manage BobChat are:

ChatFuel – to create the bot in Messenger

Diaglogflow – to train AI

Janis AI – used with ChatFuel to help integrate AI

2. Find the easy workarounds to make your social media accessible

Don’t get in the way of two people communicating. Chris D’Orso, Associate Director of Undergraduate Admissions at the College at Brockport and Justin Romack, Assistive Technology Coordinator and accessibility champion for Texas A&M University, demonstrated why there is no excuse for not making your social media accessible to everyone.

As well as some examples of accessible and non-accessible content, they also shared a list of easily accessible hacks for your content. Some highlights included:

– Get your alt-text for images sorted. Be more descriptive when writing your alt-text so a person using a screen reader can truly get a feel for your image. They recommend Buffer as a great support for social media alt-text.

– Ever thought about your contrast? Make sure it’s right for your users. Chris and Justin recommend using Colour Contrast Analyser.

– Champion accessibility through your content creation process. Start early and get everyone on board.

You can see the full list on their slides.

3. Increase the impact of your homepage by reducing the number of links and calls to action

In one excellent session I learnt how Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) revamped their website in order to stand out from the crowd of institutions reaching out to prospective students.

By setting clear goals with a plan to track success, Emily Mayock, CWRU’s Assistant Vice President of Online & Internal Communications, and her team pulled-off a redesign in just six months.

One of their tactics was to streamline the number of pages on their site, and the number of links and call to actions on their homepage. Like most universities, they prioritised messages they want to share with prospects. They used analytics to understand what content their users were clicking on and cut down their links from a whopping 82 to a slick 32. They reduced their calls to action from 28 to 10.

This tactic contributed to an increase from 17% to 39% of homepage visitors heading to the apply page, and a 5% rise in applications. Check out Emily’s slides to find out more.


This was my first HighEdWeb Conference and I would recommend this event as a place to connect with a  highly engaged and welcoming community where you can learn from true experts.

If you haven’t already read my colleague Louise’s post, be sure to check out her summary of other stand-out sessions.

If you need help making your content accessible, developing a strategy to communicate with your audience or helping with your website redesign, get in touch – we can help. You can see a full list of our services here.

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