#heweb10 - Progressive Personalization for Alumni-Driven Sites

By Jeff Stevens -->



Mark Heinan (@wyrdebeard) presented Carleton College’s approach to building a dynamic alumni web presence to encourage alumni involvement and engagement with the institution online. 

To create such a website, you need to answer the fundamental questions:

  • Who are you?
  • What do you want?

Institutions have traditionally had a hard time answering those questions, resulting in depersonalized website that are not compelling for alumni to use and interact with. Mark described the funnel effect: like prospective students, alumni are widely varied and hard to define: it’s only when they they are closer to the funnel, i.e. enrollment and matriculation, and within the system that the institution can fully define the person through roles. To be personal, it becomes necessary to collect that information again.The number one thing you can do to stifle alumni engagement is to put the content behind a login. This is a key problem for many alumni sites, as this is the primary tool institutions use for defining the key questions?Carleton surmounted this obstacle by building a robust site that pushes sensitive information behind the login, but pushes nonsensitive information in front to be accessible to all. To tailor the user experience, they ask the following questions:

  • Where are you?
  • When you are from?
  • How do you identify?

The site uses an IP locator to determine location from users. To get the answers to the other information, the Carleton website ask alumni to self-identify by creating content areas based on interests, majors, and year of graduation. Information is stored in a cookie and tailors the experience of the site to information relevant to the use - events in their town of residence (or events int he area if the IP address shows they are traveling), news and announcements for the major, questions posted by other graduates from their year, etc.).Mark stresses that you need to be logged in to see the answers to certain questions, but you should not need to log in to ask the question. The Alumni directory gives general information on a search query without logging in, but the confidential information is hidden behind the login. This gives the alumni a compelling reason to complete the log-in process rather than jumping in blindly.Mark concluded with the following tips:

  • Personalize pervasively and progressively: any opportunity to refine it and make it unique to the individual, do so
  • Use data from any available sources
  • Reward disclosure: Give the alumni a reason to continue to share information. Create tools that are immediately available after sharing new information
  • Require login at the last possible point
  • Preserve basic privacy in public spaces

This post was written by:

Jeff Stevens

Jeff Stevens splits his time between being the webmaster of the University of Florida College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the creative director for Union Design and Photo. He's scattered all over the internet, but your best chance to piece him together is through Do-Gooder.info or @kuratowa on Twitter.