Website redesigns at the University of San Diego take into account a completely new navigation structure (i.e. menu), design, and content strategy. Research and discovery is also included at the beginning of every project so that key stakeholders (such as prospective students and faculty) can provide feedback on their impressions and usage of the current website. The following is the process we follow from start to finish:
- Research and Discovery
- Information Architecture
- Concept/Design Development
- Technical Development
- Content Development
The first step of any website redesign project is a period of research and discovery to assess 1) both strengths and weaknesses of the current site and 2) look toward the future priorities of a new website. Normally the following milestones are reached in this phase:
- Focus groups with outside audiences
- Meetings with departments and key stakeholders
- Analytics review
These findings are the basis for our later decisions regarding site architecture, navigation and design.
From the research and discovery period emerge the core goals and objectives of the new website. A redesign committee normally exists for each project which functions to make high-level decisions on behalf of its area or school. The new site is a resource for prospective students while continuing to serve other community members.
Visual appearance, although important, is only one aspect of design. The utility of the site (how well it functions) and its usability (how effectively users can navigate it) are also key factors.
In many cases the core navigation structure of a website normally goes back to when the site was last redesigned. The outdated design does not serve the university's needs and the needs or perspective students. As such, we have been working to remove the "business hierarchy" from our websites toward a more user-centric and visitor-friendly form of navigating to areas of interest and information. The following is an example of a new information architecture based on the core USD website:
|Old Information Architecture||New Information Architecture|
Once the new structure of the website is established, the project moves into the design phase. Once again the committee meets to review designs for various levels of the new site: home page, landing pages, content pages, and department sites. Home pages are a place to spotlight feature stories that tie back to USD's core values, and the page itself serves as a portal to information about the admissions process, academic programs, and student experience. To enhance the visual impact of the site, the design team specifically works toward including more graphic and media elements in the new site.
All projects are part of an effort toward integrated marketing and branding in which different entities on campus will all have a similar look and feel, making the website instantly identifiable as belonging to USD. The core website is consistent and complementary to the academic units whose designs are unified through the main site.
Once the new design is approved by the redesign committee of a particular project, Photoshop files produced during the design phase are provided to the University Web Services team for development. The utility of the site (how well it functions) and its usability (how effectively users can navigate it) are key factors in our redesign endeavors, and these are initiatives carried out by the web team in building the new site.
Individuals in the department or area are tasked with tackling content issues with the new website including the review of existing content and the creation of content for all pages. The informational architecture identified earlier in the project will be the basis for the new site structure and where new/existing content is placed; in many cases content will be deleted if it is no longer applicable or needed. In some cases the department may opt to work with the Media Services team or Public Affairs for photography and other visual or dynamic elements during the content phase.
Content transition and content fill are facilitated through the use of Adobe Contribute software, which is the university's current web maintenance platform. Concurrently the university is in the beginning stages of implementing a new Content Management System called Cascade Server. Maintainers are identified in conjunction with the department overseeing the area of website, whether the core site or a departmental site. Training is provided by Information Technology Services staff through the IT Training program.
The launch of redesigned websites are handled in two phases. 1) A beta launch provides an opportunity for internal and external audiences to see the site a few weeks before launch and provide feedback. 2) The real site launch occurs roughly 2 - 3 weeks after the beta launch, at which point the old website is removed from the USD web server and the new one is posted in its place. Periodic surveys are normally planned abd distributed to guage responsiveness to the new site and suggestions for improvements.
[ back to top ]