Inside USD

Website Redesign

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Users of the University of San Diego website may have noticed some changes during the past few months. Some are easily visible—such as a fresh look to the School of Leadership and Education Sciences (SOLES) website, which launched in January—while other updates are much more fluid and behind the scenes. Nevertheless, each update is meant to improve the overall USD website in design, function and maintenance.

Dubbed the USD Website Redesign, this ambitious project has several key goals and speaks to USD’s commitment to providing the best, most user-friendly information possible. “The latest USD redesign takes technology trends into consideration while focusing on usability and content,” said Joy Brunetti, web coordinator for the Information Technology Services (ITS) organization. “This newest website redesign cycle provides a fresh new look and feel while looking closely at information architecture (how a site is structured) and what information prospective students are looking for on the site. This is the core of a useful website—if a site doesn’t have the content users are looking for or isn’t easy to navigate, then no amount of fresh design work will fix that.”

One of the top features as a result of the redesign process is that every new USD website will be responsive, meaning it can adapt to a range of screen sizes and device types. The same content, imagery, and media are reformatted on the screen depending on whether it’s being viewed from a computer, tablet, or mobile phone of any size. The new SOLES site is a prime example of this adaptation.

As technology continues to grow and change, Brunetti emphasizes, the importance of companies taking the time and initiative to undergo a redesign every few years is invaluable. “Technology changes so often that you have to redo everything from the ground up at least every three to five years,” she said. “Aside from technology evolving and incorporating new trends and services, you have to take a look at your website on a regular basis and make sure it’s delivering the information that primary audiences are looking for. Looking at the website’s analytics, holding focus groups, and surveying site visitors gives us that chance to start over with the site and readjust.”

With those key points in mind, Brunetti and her team have been rolling out several large website improvements and have many more yet to go. Most recently to launch is an innovative Content Management System (CMS) called Cascade, as well as a new look, feel, and design to the homegrown MyPostings system.

According to Roberta Roebuck, web developer for the Information Technology Services organization, the new CMS offers many new and powerful features beyond what is available in Adobe Contribute, and users will have greater flexibility and control over website content in the new CMS.

“One of the best features of Cascade is the ability of users to link to any other page or file in Cascade, and have their links automatically updated if the owner of the other pages are moved or renamed,” said Roebuck. “This will eliminate a majority of the broken links that occur within the whole of the USD website.”

Roebuck has also been the project lead for the updated MyPostings system, a database containing news and events that are displayed throughout the USD website—and,  most importantly, a primary tool for the marketing of those campus news and events.

“The redesigned MyPostings system will allow for more efficient creation, updating and searching of news and events throughout the USD website,” said Roebuck. “Visitors to the USD website will be able to filter news and events by a specific day, as well as by topic, as opposed to just by year.”

In addition, “it also allows post creators to associate imagery with their posts, which will provide a greater visual interest to our website visitors. Currently, our news and events listings are purely text with no associated visual.”

Brunetti and her team are just getting started. Other items in the works? The School of Law’s new website design is set to launch mid-September. And eventually even the USD homepage will get a new look as well, but that won’t be until 2015.

–Kelly Machleit

ITS welcomes feedback about the USD website so please send in suggestions.

  • Share/Bookmark