Issue 47, Winter 2011
by Marie Raney
The Western website redesign project is a ten-month effort with a goal to deliver a new Drupal-based website in September of 2011. The Homepage Committee consists of the Working Committee and its Advisory Board. The Working Committee presented the first stage of its findings to the Advisory Board on Monday, February 7. This first stage, Features Definition, presents the features, information, and capabilities that will be available in the new site without reference to the design or layout of those features. The features chosen to be represented on the site are a direct response to the understanding of the site's primary purpose and audience.
The goal of the redesign effort is to convey a sense of who we are while presenting useful content in a compelling format that invites participation and return visits, turning visitors into new students, employees, donors, and involved community members.
This goal expresses two basic requirements:
The website goal, above, also implies an audience for our website: those people who will become new students, new employees, donors, and involved community members. Therefore the audience for our new website is the external audience, e.g., those that are not current students and employees of Western. The external audience includes groups with disparate goals including:
In order to determine what information our audience requires to Enroll, Contribute or Connect, we used a survey on the current homepage for five days to gather information from more than 1000 prospective students and other external community members as well as current Western students, faculty and staff. You probably participated in that survey and we thank you very much for both your participation in that vital data-gathering step as well as for your patience while it was going on. This data was used to develop the Features list and is also available on the web at http://www.wwu.edu/redesign.
In addition we talked more in depth to a small sample of students to get a more experiential view of how students look for colleges and what they look for in a university website. We also collected information from the Viking Village Community Forum on how our current homepage could be improved. This thread was started in early November and ran actively for a week or so. These results also informed our Features list.
Thirdly, we surveyed dozens of university websites to get confirmation of what other universities were providing for their viewers.
With the Features list composed (see www.wwu.edu/redesign) we are starting the next stage of the project: Design, and the third stage, Models. Design is the look and feel (imagery, colors, and motifs) of the home page and sample lower pages, and Modeling has to do with interactions with the page and the user and also the flow between the pages. Modeling is usually done with "wireframe" sketches whose purpose is to determine the flow of information and actions. By starting work on both stages now we hope to maximize the recursive character of design elements which influence element flow which in turn influence design elements. We plan to present Design motifs after spring break and Modeling in June.
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