New year, newly re-aligned

You may have noticed a little change in when you logged in this morning. Here is a run down of the changes from top to bottom:

Completely re-written code

The new site is built on HTML5 and is ready for any future browser advancements. We are using native HTML5 elements like <header> and <footer> combined with the Google HTML5 Shim. We removed the reliance on Flash completely so the page is the same on all desktop and mobile devices.

We also started to integrate a few media queries so smaller devices (at this point just smartphones) get a slimmed down and easier to use interface (screenshot). It is a good start but we still have more work to do.

Combined search results page

Back in October 2010 I presented at the eduWeb conference on Analyzing Real-time User Visitor Searches. Included in the talk was the introduction of a combined search results page (screenshot) that we have been testing. The functionality of the page was built by observing user search patterns. The combined results page includes Web pages, campus locations, classes, events and people. You can test out the new search at:

Focusing on student/faculty success

The main centerpiece of the old homepage focused on branding images with a drop-down menu that hid student/faculty success stories. This was great when we first launched but over time it became apparent that the stories were being overlooked. We discovered by asking students that they were simply too hard to get to and out of the way. We fixed this by putting the stories front and center.

In addition we broke a rule of ours, but for a good reason. Typically we do not allow elements on a page to move without the user taking direct action on them. In the case of the university homepage the goal is to get a variety of audiences to the most appropriate area as quickly as possible. After looking at the statistics for the homepage we discovered people spend 4x the time on this page than any of the child pages (probably because it sits as a person’s homepage). So we decided that if a user has been on the page for 20 seconds and hasn’t taken an action that it is safe to switch up the content. We are giving it a test at the moment and will report the results.

Upcoming deadlines and apply now buttons

Since the primary audience for the homepage is prospective students we decided to give them a call to action. We separated the Apply Now menu item into two buttons with the call out of the application deadlines. The undergraduate deadlines are pretty straight forward but the graduate school has varying dates so we opted to display the upcoming semester. The goal is to give the visitor a sense of urgency and display important information they look for anyways.

Schedule a tour

Below the focus on area we added the ability to schedule a campus tour right from the homepage. From talking to prospective and current students it became apparent thtn visiting campus was a large influence in their decision to apply and attend Wayne State. We wanted to make sure they didn’t have to go searching for the opportunity to come to campus.

Campus status area

Last but not least we added a completely new area to the site. Currently you will see it display some important information for current students, “Classes begin Monday, Jan. 10”. It is the most searched term on the homepage and most asked question on twitter at the moment. The area is meant to give the campus community information about the state of the university. We have something very unique to be displayed once school starts. I won’t spoil the surprise right now. You will have to return on January 10, 2011 to see what it is.

You can view the re-aligned homepage at:

4 Replies to “New year, newly re-aligned”

    1. @Mike We will probably be doing a follow up post about the combined search. Right now we are trying to figure out how we can get some stats from it since half is coming from Google’s iframe.

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