New A&S Website Blends User Input, Best Practices

Welcome to the College of Arts and Sciences’ new website.

This site is the culmination of a yearlong process of research, usability testing, user surveys, writing, editing, design, and development undertaken by staff of the Office of Educational Technology (eTech).

You’ll notice as you click through these pages that the site has a completely different look and feel from its predecessor, with livelier, more colorful graphics and the College’s new logo on every page. The changes are more than superficial, however: Unlike the old site, which was built in html, the new site uses the WordPress content management system, which allows faster updates and easier integration of multimedia features. We have also reconceived the site’s navigation and reorganized, expanded, and updated its content. The new site is much closer to fully ADA-accessible than the previous site, and over the next few months we will continue converting content to accessible formats.

The biggest change, however, is that while the old site relied to a great extent on terminology and organization unique to the College, the new site is entirely user-focused.

The most obvious manifestation of this change is found in the upper-right-hand quadrant of the home page, where you’ll see links to content organized around specific user groups: students, faculty and staff, and alumni. But even for users who don’t identify with any of those groups, the entire site is designed for quicker, easier navigation. We based that restructuring on many months of research into how users interacted with the College website and what they expected or hoped to find there.

Site analytics told us where our users come from, which pages they visit most often, and how long they view those pages. Surveys and usability testing involving A&S faculty, staff, department chairs, deans, and students helped us determine not only what information they needed from the College website but also how to organize content in a way that would make sense to them.

The result is a navigation scheme that reflects how users think about and look for information, rather than one that organizes information according to the College’s administrative structure. User input also translated directly into new content, such as an easy-to-find directory to A&S departments and offices, updated and reorganized forms and policies, and a greatly expanded Student Services section.

While we’ve achieved our short-term goals (the site’s up and running, right?), in the coming months we plan to add a variety of new content and features in addition to regular updates to our news and media sections. We hope that as you explore these pages, you’ll let us know what features you’d appreciate having on the site, what news you’d like to share with our readers, and how this site can better serve you.