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Wayne State University

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Aug 22 / Nick DeNardis

Inside the Wayne State University Homepage Redesign

It has been two months since the launch of the new wayne.edu and I wanted to take some time to give an inside look at the process, goals and results of the project.

The Wayne State homepage was getting to be a dinosaur. It was over six years old, which is at least three life times in web years. Our redesign process started 9 months ago, we pulled together a committee of people from around campus to get input and make decisions.

The goal of the committee was to determine the pros and cons of the current web site and some recommendations for longer terms goals for the homepage. We also sent a survey to current students with hopes to gather all the input we could about what was working and what needed to be fixed.

This is what we came up with.

Site Goals

  • Increasing the screen real estate used
  • More Wayne State branding and less “Event Driven” content
  • Gain more control when user search from the homepage
  • Quicker access to the administrative sites at the university

With these parameters in mind we came up with some wire frames and started testing them with the committee. We quickly discovered what worked and what did not, a few rounds later we had a solid direction. We then tested the design with everyone we could find, staff, faculty, current students and even high school students. From their input we made even further modifications.

Comparison of Old v. New homepage

Graphically the new site takes up more real estate, it also uses the softer color pallet and has more negative space to call attention to news and event items.

Run Down of Homepage Changes

Header, We opted for the the full width header with the horizontal Wayne State wording. We used our Stone Sans typeface instead of the wordmark because the student input showed it gave a more personalized feel.

Quick Search, Since we do not have the Google search appliance and certain pages do not come up at the top of the public Google search we added a quick search ability. For example if you start typing “summer” a drop down will show up with the Spring/Summer registration site and you can get right to it without having to go to the results page.

My WSU Tools, The primary audience for the homepage is prospective students but we understand that current students/faculty/staff have the site set as their homepage and use it every day. Pipeline was the most clicked link on the old homepage and instead of creating another barrier for our internal audience we added a quick login screen so they can get to the administrative areas of the university without having to go through an extra login page.

Navigation, We kept the same left column navigation so the user was not too disorientated because ~80% of the visitors to the homepage are returning visitors. A suggestion from the committee was to separate the Faculty and Staff menu items because they have different needs. We ended up separating these two menu items. We will be completely re navigating the site on the next homepage version.

Accomplishments Area, A Main branding area filled with student success stories, interesting programs, alumni stories, community and promotions for schools/colleges. Overall it is a feel good place for anyone interested in the university to pull them in and keep them interested.The idea is to give prospective students a feel of the university and programs they could be involved in.

WSU Impact, Things that impact WSU and the community which need homepage presence.

News and Events, No more descriptions, we found them to distract from the news/event titles.

Featured Events, Used for upcoming events that are open to the public, what the three panel did on the old homepage, it will randomly choose one at refresh and a user can choose to move to a different event at their own pace.

Break Down of Child Page Changes

Header, Cleaned up the header, the new child page header and menu match the homepage header and menu, this was not the case before.

Main Content, There is now a right hand impacting photo on each page with quick links on the left hand side. The purpose of the links are to get a user right to where they need to go.

Related Information, We added targeted information to each child page depending on the audience. Typically it is the events calendar, announcements and related links. All three pull in information from around campus related to the audience of the page.

School and Colleges Page, To bring more unification to the schools and colleges instead of just listing them with links we added a listing of all the degrees offered from each school/college. Having these degrees listed by Undergraduate and Graduate status helps students jump right to the program information without them having to go to the school/college web site and try to find their information all over again. Check it out the Schools and Colleges page for the example.

Results

Overall the initial feedback after the launch has been positive. We added a link to the bottom of the homepage which simply says “Like the new wayne.edu?” This goes to a feedback form where the comment box is all that is required. Even with the site launching during the summer semester we received over 150 comments. We read every one and responded if they left their contact information.

If you have not already checkout the new wayne.edu.

Also checkout the site on eduStyle.net to nominate it or rate it against other university web sites.

I will be following up with another post to go in depth about the statistics.

2 Comments

  1. HIPS / Sep 4 2008

    Whilst visiting for information on other topics couldn’t help but read. Always enjoy to see development of sites. The before and after screenshots certainly demonstrate improvemnets within the design. Good job.

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