Domain Name Reduction
Our policy of accommodating most requests for a websites has created an information organization problem in our domain name space.
To make our collective voices louder, we need to address it head-on.
As of May 31, 2023, ASU Engineering operates…
183 separate websites using subdomains within engineering.asu.edu
Of those 183 sites above, there are about 30 sites which our communications team manages directly or at least heavily influences. Those sites are our primary information resources and serve one or more of the following functions:
- Core information necessary for new and existing ASU Engineering students
- Information pertaining to Fulton Difference programs
- Resources for faculty and staff members as valued ASU Engineering employees
- Facts, stories and examples of our core values in action around campus.
Sounds like a lot. How did we get here?
On average, the Strategic Marketing / Communications team receives three requests for a new websites each week. That’s 156 potentially new websites each year.
The balance of the websites that we operate and maintain within ASU engineering are born as a direct result of a request made by our faculty and staff members for assistance in publishing a few key pieces of information. Typically those requests are related to:
- The pursuit of a research grant or other form of research endowment
- The establishment of a working group or “center” dedicated to studying an engineering topic or challenge of our era
- The publication of the results of a completed research study. This is typically a curated list of links to journal articles but occasionally may take the form of working software or models, training materials or other knowledge collections.
- The recruitment of graduate students and post-doctoral candidates as
indentured servantslab community members to help make research come alive.
These are absolutely great reasons to launch a website. And so… we do!
We will continue to launch and maintain websites with these purposes as long as the internet is still alive and open to the world.
A technical challenge
From the summer of 2016 until the summer of 2022, we were limited by our web hosting environment on how we could structure the addresses of any new websites.
Consequently, for about six years, all new requests were granted an independent domain name that included engineering.asu.edu in the URL. That necessitated an explosion of independent addresses for faculty members, lab group and research centers that ended up competing with our core websites.
The result was an increasing sense that crucial information about ASU Engineering was hard to find and required visiting too many different websites.
We never want to tell anyone “no, you can’t have a website.”
But, we inadvertently created situations where navigating to critical pieces of information were overly complex.
Imagine yourself as a new student wanting to find information about a new interdisciplinary degree program.
This is the list of websites at your disposal.
And these are the websites which contain details which might be relevant to that journey.
Each new site competes with our core sites by introducing new acronyms, names and concepts to our landscape.
Each new site also competes for the attention of a more general audience who may be “browsing” our collection of stories and accomplishments rather than deliberately information-seeking.
Reducing the noise
The members of the Marketing and Communications team focused on the ASU Engineering web presence are already starting to correct this problem.
We have eliminated over 20 different domain names by reorganizing information within our main website at engineering.asu.edu
Similar efforts are underway to reorganize content related to faculty and staff members with new centralized sites like:
- students.engineering.asu.edu (coming soon)
We have created domain names and infrastructure that allows for growth within our web ecosystem without adding to the confusion.
- Our faculty and lab website hosting solution currently houses over 100 separate websites under either the faculty.engineering.asu.edu or labs.engineering.asu.edu domain names.
- They are still freely available to any faculty member who asks for one.
The effort to restructure and clean up and to reorganize our information coincides with the ASU’s efforts to build a “brand standard” for the whole university.
The ASU Unity Design System is the current implementation of a framework for communicating effectively with multiple audiences within websites at asu.edu. It is maintained by the Brand Group and Enterprise Technology. It represents multiple years worth of user experience and accessibility best practices, data, research and end user testing.
The design system provides all ASU developers with a platform-agnostic UI code library based on the popular Bootstrap UI kit and React.js frameworks that can be integrated into our own products for the web.
Having a design system allows all of asu.edu to adopt a unified set of standards that represents the ASU brand and prioritizes an optimal user experience, regardless of how each individual website is built — creating a more seamless experience for asu.edu visitors.ASU Brand Guidehttps://brandguide.asu.edu/execution-guidelines/web
Your help can make things even easier
for our students and other visitors.
The goal of the domain name reclamation project is to reorganize ASU Engineering domain names into groups and common addresses on the web. We want to make our information clearer and easier to deliver to the right audience.
We can accomplish this by working in three ways.
Goal 1. Restricting domain name growth
As we respond to new requests for a website, you may notice that your options for a URL are more carefully curated than requests honored in an earlier time.
We are actively trying to gather more details about your request ahead of time to understand some additional pieces of information like:
- The life span of a given project or center on campus
- Guidelines for when your “small group” site may be growing too large for its current address
- A more complete picture of the content that you intend to publish prior to issuing the site an address.
- Additional methods for disseminating information that may not involve a new URL.
Goal 2. Putting the “genie back in the bottle”
We have identified about 130 websites which we would like to relocate to a different URL.
Most of the time, we will be asking you to move your website to a more generalized website domain name like faculty.engineering.asu.edu or labs.engineering.asu.edu.
You would be issued a “sub-folder” address for your specific content instead of an entirely independent domain.
We will redirect existing website traffic from the old domain to the new one for up to a full year to allow time to adjust printed materials like business cards and signage.
If you are no longer using your website, we will be glad to decommission the site and direct traffic back to a more permanent resource like your ASU Search profile instead.
Goal 3. Being human about our effort
We understand. Published content is meaningful even if the audience for the content is smaller in scale than some of our enterprise projects. We want to honor each newly published idea as best as we can.
We know that content reorganization is an inexact science. We recognize that our attempts to make things easier for most people learning about ASU Engineering on the web may make it seen harder for you to connect with your audience.
Here’s what we know about our efforts thus far:
- Websites using independent domain names typically don’t result in any less web traffic than a those contained within a more general URL.
- Each “subfolder” site housed within a group domain still maintains separate user access controls, navigation menus, social media configurations and XML sitemaps. Which means that although the domain name might be shared with several other sites, each site is viewed by search engines as an independent site.
- The presence of other high quality content within the same domain name in an adjacent site to yours site may result in a higher ranking within organic search results on sites like Google and Bing.
But even with that additional knowledge, if you feel that our reorganizing efforts will cause more harm than good, please speak with us about our efforts. We’ll work to find a solution that fits everyone’s needs.
The domain name reduction strategy is a project that is being actively worked on by the following members of the Marketing and Communications team. Feel free to reach out to any of us directly with additional questions or concerns.