How to Move Your Print Catalog to a Digital Platform

March 20, 2017

We've written before about the benefits of moving to academic catalog software, and if you're reading this it's likely that you're already sold on moving to a digital academic catalog system. Sometimes, however, the big hangup is figuring out how exactly the campus is going to move to the new system.

We pride ourselves on helping clients smoothly move to our academic catalog system, and these are the general steps that we've found work best for most campuses — but there's always room to do what's best for any particular organization.

1. Get Internal Buy In

This one is probably obvious to anyone who works in higher ed — nothing happens without inter-departmental buy in. Fortunately, a digital-catalog solution is often an easy sell around campus, since a bulky PDF catalog posted online is often a pain point for multiple departments.

We've found that, rather than getting in the weeds with technical details or focusing on a specific product, it's best to focus on the big wins of moving to academic catalog software. These are the ones that often work best for pitching an academic catalog solution on campus:

  • Increased access for students. Having a digital, mobile friendly catalog allows students and potential students of all backgrounds to easily access your academic offerings. If you have data about the number of students on campus who access the internet primarily through a mobile device — and it's likely it's a fairly high percentage — it can be eye-opening for staff and faculty.
  • Decreased workload for staff. With Clean Catalog, the content-building and editing process is streamlined and easy to manage, and can save staff hours and hours of digging through scribbled edits or parsing through confusing comments on Word documents.

It usually doesn't take much to sell the campus community on a digital catalog solution, but if you need more ideas we've written about other benefits of going digital.

2. Detail the Problems You Want to Solve, and Select Software Accordingly

Rather than dive right into a software agreement, take a bit of time to figure out the problems you want to solve. You'll probably need to include IT, Instruction, and Communications — among others — in the discussion. This doesn't have to be an extremely time-consuming step, but it's always

Your list might look something like this:

  • Online, mobile friendly catalog that uses our branding and works well with our website.
  • Meets WGAC Accessibility requirements
  • Has robust editorial permissions and workflows on the back end
  • Provides API for website to use catalog data

Once you've selected a solution, you'll need to discuss with them their exact transition plans and timeline. We can usually get you up and running in a matter of weeks, and we've laid out our specific steps here.

3. Schedule Your Transition

Most colleges have found it easiest to move to a new system between catalog years, developing the next year's catalog on the system then switching over when the catalog is ready.

For some schools it also works to switch mid-year — for example, launch your 2017-18 catalog during the 2017-18 academic year. Either way, with Clean Catalog it's straightforward for us to import your existing catalog into the software, and then you can either launch it as is that year or use that as the base for developing the content for the next year.

4. Dole Out Responsibilities and Train on New System

One of the benefits of using academic catalog software like Clean Catalog is that it allows staff across campus to edit their sections — and only their sections — and submit for approval. There's always a bit of a learning curve with new systems, so with Clean Catalog we provide training sessions for staff to learn how to use the (fairly simple) system.

As part of this, you'll want to set deadlines with staff for when their content needs to be approved and submitted, and set clear guidelines for who's doing what.

5. Edit Content As Needed

As mentioned in Step 3, it's usually best to start with the previous year's catalog. We import all that content for you, but you'll need to adjust it with your changes for the next year. Fortunately, you can now delegate those responsibilities to the appropriate areas across campus, and review as needed. Clean Catalog provides easy logs and notifications for seeing what content has been updated and what hasn't, allowing you to review and remind as necessary.

6. Launch! (And start planning for next year.)

Launching is usually as easy as posting a link on your website or setting up a few redirects to point to your new catalog. You'll obviously want to keep an eye on things and respond to any feedback, but launching is generally a smooth and stress-free process.

At most colleges, catalogs are an ongoing project, so it's likely you'll need to start thinking about the next year's catalog. We've found that the best process is to make a copy of that year's catalog, and use that as a base to create the next year's catalog. There's often a large amount of content that's static from year to year, and you can get that content signed off on and ready well before the final rush of content the next year.