OmniUpdate is one of iFactory’s development partners, and we collaborate with them to design higher education websites that will be hosted on OU Campus, OmniUpdate’s content management system. So we were thrilled when OmniUpdate invited Sean Sweeney and I to this year’s OmniUpdate User Training Conference (OUTC18), held in March in Orange County, California.

After an extended New England winter, we were desperate for some sunshine. As an added bonus, we would have the chance to share iFactory’s knowledge with, and gain insights from, our peers and other higher education web professionals.

iFactory Presentations at OUTC18

OmniUpdate User Training Conference 2

On the first day of the conference, Sean sat in on the “Dreaming, Discovering, and Developing for the Future” panel, which covered trends in the higher education space. He had the chance to share a tidbit about himself (his cell-phone charger was once borrowed by rapper Nelly on an extended flight) and represented iFactory’s views on accessibility: mainly its importance to user experience, compliance, and search engine optimization. One of his nuggets of wisdom: “Great accessibility is great SEO.”The next day, I gave a presentation called “Cleaning Up Your Content,” which advocates combing through your content and determining what to keep, revise, and archive well before your site launches. If you can figure out what content “sparks joy” and what doesn’t, then you can reduce the content you need to migrate and spend more time on refining your marketing message. As part of the presentation, I walked the audience through a case study on Queens University of Charlotte, a successful collaboration between iFactory and OmniUpdate.

OUTC18 Trends

  • Accessibility
    This was one of the most popular topics, with five presentations approaching the subject from different angles. From my content perspective, one of the most helpful presentations was “Learning Web Accessibility for Content Creators” by Norma Campbell of the Fashion Institute of Technology. While some aspects of accessibility are beyond the reach of content creators, Campbell zoomed in on the accessibility standards directly affected by content teams and how best to train those teams so the lessons stick.
  • SEO + Analytics
    The next important subject involved SEO and analytics because, even if you build the most beautiful, accessible website, it won’t matter if people can’t find the site and take action. Josh Dodson of VisionPoint delivered not one, but two presentations, one on SEO Building Blocks and the other on Google Tag Manager. Matt Herzberger of Ruffalo Noel Levitz also gave a presentation on how a well-optimized information architecture can affect recruitment. The takeaways from these presentations were clear: Content remains king (or queen!), but we need to make that content findable and trackable so we can keep delivering users what they need.
  • Site Migration
    Finally, site migration remains an ongoing pain point. Many of the conference attendees had been through brutal, time-consuming migrations. Even if there weren’t many official presentations on the subject, migration often popped up in Q&A sessions, sidebars, and lunchtime conversations. iFactory’s approach to migration involves collaboration among the content strategist who becomes the content expert, the producer who estimates the hours, and the developers who perform the migration. We swapped techniques and best practices for encouraging stakeholders to remove content, and I also spread my favorite strategy, which is to archive as much content as you can early so you don’t have to migrate so much content in the first place.

Sun, Sushi, and Spirits

We didn’t have much downtime as we absorbed all that OUTC18 had to offer, but we took advantage of the California climate whenever we had the opportunity. On the first night, I convinced Sean to brave a drive-through sushi restaurant which had some of the best rainbow and spider rolls we’ve tasted. Who knew? The next night, OmniUpdate loaded all the OUTC18 participants up on buses and transported us to a dinner at the Disney California Adventure, where Sean took a spin on the “Cars” ride while I kept my feet on the ground. On the last night, our clients from Tacoma Community College took us to Taco Maria in Costa Mesa, where we sat on a patio and enjoyed cocktails and tacos while absorbing all the sun we could.

This year’s OmniUpdate User Training Conference was both educational and fun. The Southern California atmosphere didn’t hurt, but most importantly, we learned that we aren’t alone in facing digital challenges, and we are setting the pace when it comes to finding solutions that serve both clients and users.