Ready, Set, Redesign

Seems like just yesterday that we sat down with the first intrepid department web editors in Leyburn 301 and started creating a new W&L website in the Ingeniux content management system. As it turns out, yesterday was 2007, and the time has come for a site-wide redesign.

As we embark on what will surely be a multi-year project, we want to take a moment to tell you more about the project and gather your thoughts about our current and future site on our website feedback survey.

Why Redesign?

There are some obvious answers to the question. First, as it’s been over five years since we last redesigned, our site is beginning to look a bit dated. Additionally, our existing templates limit what kinds of content we can put on each page.  The web is constantly growing and changing, and periodic redesigns help us take stock and keep pace.

The most important reasons by far, however, place function above form. As we considered the parameters for this redesign, the key requirements were that it be both responsive and accessible.

What’s responsive design?

In a nutshell, responsive design is a design that is device-independent. We create the design once, and it adapts (or responds) to desktop displays, laptop computers, tablet devices, mobile phones and whatever they think of next. In this age of proliferating devices, it’s the freedom of knowing that whatever device you use to access W&L’s content, the site will be optimized for your experience. Content is created in modules, and those modules can be rearranged to emphasize and deemphasize content, depending on the device. This modular concept also allows us to design fewer templates while making them more flexible, so that departments can enjoy custom functionality within a common design.

At the same time, creating new templates allows us to add stricter accessibility controls that will ensure that our site can be successfully accessed by individuals with disabilities.

What will change, and how will it look?

For the most part, the changes you will notice are aesthetic. We’ll still be using Ingeniux for content management, albeit a new and improved version. We’ve tried to keep the navigation consistent and retain any links that currently exist on our homepage, but some things will be shifting around. In keeping with trends in modern web design, we’re going for a cleaner look with more white space and bigger graphics.

Take a look at the preliminary template designs below. Look at these on multiple devices, or play with your browser window size to see how the content shifts and adapts to various screens.

What if I don’t like it?

Wait. What do you MEAN you don’t like it? Of course you do! Look again.

But seriously, as with our last redesign, the designs above are representative of the basic template, including the header and footer, the global navigation, and the standard color palette. Within that, there will be room for individual expression, particularly in the photos you use and the types of content you want to display on your site. We will sit down with each department prior to the redesign and discuss design options and any special content needs you may have.

Our approach:

You may already know that we have recently moved our website hosting off-site. And while our CMS is definitely more stable as a result, it’s also slow. This is partly due to our virtual environment, but more so to the sheer size of our site. In the last decade, as print budgets have been slashed and web self-service has become a cost-cutting buzzword, websites have come to resemble the proverbial kitchen sink. We’re currently at 35,000+ pages, and that doesn’t include news stories, our athletics site or our online catalog. It does include a lot of outdated web pages, obsolete documents and unused images. Our dead weight is dragging us down, and it’s time to shed a few pounds.

How, you might ask? Well, like any weight loss program, it’s going to require hard work and commitment. And by that, we mean we’re going to audit every page, vet every document and manually recreate the pages we need in a fresh instance of our content management system. We’re starting over at x1. And even better, we’re going to get rid of those xIDs.

Timeline:

A redesign of this magnitude can only be accomplished in stages, as follows:

  • Phase 1 (January-April 2013): The first sites to be migrated and redesigned will be our University homepage and other “top-level” sites. This includes global navigation sites like About W&L, Academics, Admissions & Financial Aid, Campus Life, News & Media and Support W&L.  While the WebComm team works on those sites, we’ll also have a few pilot departments working on their own redesigns. First up will be the Career Development Center, the Williams School and the Music Department.
  • Phase 2 (May-August 2013): Once we work the kinks out on the top level pages, the schedule will depend on the workload of our department and those offices wishing to redesign. We’re looking for volunteers, and we’ll work with you to determine the optimal timeline for the migration and launch.
  • Additional 4-month phases will be added as needed.

Ready to get started?

Here’s how you can get on the schedule:

  • Make a Request: The redesign process begins with the redesign request, which can be found on the Communications Tracking Form under “Web Content Request.” Fill out this form to indicate your interest and preliminary timetable, and we’ll get you on the calendar.
  • Complete a Site Audit and Redesign Questionnaire: When you request a redesign, you will be asked to fill out a redesign questionnaire, which will help determine your audience, goals and workflow. At the same time, the WebComm team will begin a comprehensive audit of your site. By going through each site page-by-page and studying the site analytics, we can determine what’s working and what is not. We’ll note outdated content, identify pages for internal and external audiences and recommend areas for further discussion or improvement.
  • Attend a Redesign Meeting: Once the questionnaire and audit are complete, we’ll have a meeting with the key stakeholders from the department to discuss the design, functionality, workflow and timeline for your redesign.
  • Migrate content:Manually moving the content from the current version of Ingeniux to a new one will be time-consuming, but beneficial. We’ll have a slimmer site with newer templates, which will speed up publish times and ensure that our pages are accessible to all users. We’ll eliminate outdated documents and pages that are problematic for users who uncover them in search. And users will benefit from new functionality in the CMS, like inline editing capability and private pages for internal audiences.We understand that for some departments, website management is a pleasure, and for others, a drain on resources. Going forward, departments will be able to choose from three web management models:
  • Department-Managed: Departments will designate an individual or small group as web editor(s). Departmental web editors will complete extensive and ongoing training in the Ingeniux CMS, the Campus Communications Hub, the ITS Form Builder and, if necessary, the WordPress blogging platform, and will have access to create and update web content as necessary. Use of students for this purpose is strongly discouraged, due to erratic schedules and high turnover rates. Under this model, department heads agree to include web editor responsibilities in annual HR performance goals so that performance can be evaluated and rewarded according to the time commitment and complexity of the work.
  • WebComm-Managed: Web Communications will manage web updates for the department within a reasonable timeframe (generally 3-5 days depending on the complexity of the request) via the Communications Tracking Form.
  • Hybrid Model: Departments manage day-to-day announcements and events via a blog and the Campus Communications Hub while Web Communications manages less time-sensitive/more complex content in the CMS.

We’ll discuss which model works best for you in our redesign meeting.

Any Questions/Comments?

If you have any questions or comments about the design, the migration or the timing of your particular part of the redesign process, please contact Jessica Willett.

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