We see ‘About Us’ pages as one clear entry point for this tool, but we have already found other creative and important uses cases for About.
University Faculty Pages Case Study
So far, colleges and universities have proven to be an engaging space for various applications of About.
For the past several months, we’ve partnered with a department at a well-known top university to solve a bottleneck issue around faculty pages.
In this department, the departmental WordPress-powered website is updated by a small staff (less than six). There are two dozen faculty members. The faculty and staff do not regularly meet, and communicate primarily over email.
The faculty in this department are known to travel often, giving presentations and talks around the country frequently. Often before talks, a faculty member may want to update their profile with a recent article or work that many be especially pertinent to whatever group they are preparing to address. Updating their profile also signals to conference organizers the biography they should use if introductions are needed.
At times, these talks occur over weekend and evenings when staff may not be immediately available to process updates.
Because staff and faculty are not often in the same building, or on the same schedule, there are barriers to even brief WordPress tutorials that would make it possible for faculty to simply learn the WP admin and make all updates themselves.
Additionally, as many content-heavy WordPress sites can be, this department’s WordPress admin is very customized and less intuitive than simpler installations of WordPress.
Further, faculty are already responsible for keeping up to date with a very different learning management system that is used for their courses, so the inclination to learn a new platform on top of this is low. Faculty also mention they do not like to “bother” staff with repeated small updates.
We worked with the department to write About into the site. Staff went through a one time process of creating new Google docs for each faculty member, and linking that doc to each individual faculty page.
Now each faculty member needs only now to update their own Google doc and the content feeds to their faculty page.
Faculty enjoy this new simplicity, and About is widely praised. Using About has been, in the words of a faculty member, a “game-changer.”
Faculty can include as many links to the content of their bio as they want. But, because the content of the document uses the CSS of the overall site, it is not possible for them to compromise the specific design of their page, if they, for instance, paste content in the wrong font style or size.
The takeaway of About for the department is one less request and negotiation between faculty and staff, and a great steps towards autonomy and ownership of the site for faculty.
This case study is just one small example of the particular workflows within a University that may be well-suited for intervention with About.
On this note, during the implementation of About at this University we happened across one other useful use case for About using a different tool in the Google suite: that is, in organizing faculty for various collective movements.
Regularly on campuses today, faculty make their position known on an issue by writing letters, and collecting signatures. Google Forms has emerged as a popular way to do this. By using a Google Form with About, faculty would be able to dynamically illustrate who is signing a petition, moment by moment. Typically, the process of moving submissions to web is one that is clunky and time-consuming.
We are working with this particular campus to use About for their next collective action in letter writing.