Website Redesign Blog
The new website is on its way
Just over a year from now, UW-Superior's website will look a lot different than it does today.
by Tom Wilkowske
With the help of a vendor, UWSuper.Edu will undergo a careful, comprehensive visual redesign and restructuring.
The goal: to provide a more inviting, welcoming, useful experience to our website's visitors, especially new ones, who number in the tens of thousands each month.
The new website will:
Highlight compelling visual content, allowing us to show the best of who we are with strong video and photo stories.
Look good and work well whether a smartphone, tablet or laptop is being used to view it.
Make it easier for users -- internal and external -- to find the content they're looking for.
A year may sound like a long time, but it's not. It's actually a tight deadline, given the scale of website redesign projects in general and this one in particular.
Along with design and technical challenges, our website's sheer size complicates things. It contains nearly 20,000 pages, a number more typical of universities several times our size.
As part of the redesign, a content inventory will be conducted to help us better organize, assess and improve web content sitewide, as well as restructure content to be more mobile-friendly. The inventory also will guide plans to create an intranet, a separate portal or network that will share content for internal use.
The website's last major revision was in 2008, when elaborate, slow-loading video "splash pages" were popular and only 18 percent of cell phones in use were smartphones.
Today, 56 percent of all cell phones in the U.S. are smartphones and 34 percent of all cell phone owners use the phone as their primary device to consume web content, according to the Pew Research Center. According to another study, 43 percent of college-bound juniors and seniors use only a mobile device for the web.
In the past year, the Web Team has been busy. We've been researching vendors and web design best practices. We've been refining website goals and priorities. We also have been working through bidding requirements and consulting with other UW campuses about their recent redesign projects.
The Web Team chose Figleaf Software of Washington, D.C., to lead the redesign for two main reasons. First, Figleaf is well-versed in CommonSpot, the content management system that powers the website, which will remain in place during the redesign. Second, the company has successfully led web redesign projects for other UW campuses, including UW-Stout, whose contract served as the basis for our agreement with the company. State contracting rules allow UW-Superior to "piggyback" on Stout's contract, sparing us from a long and cumbersome bidding process.
Funds for the redesign come from UW-System, which endorsed our website's increasing importance when it funded the campus' current Unleash Your Superior Side recruitment campaign.
It's a wise investment because in many ways, our website serves as the most traveled "location" on campus. Every month, UWSuper.Edu's home page gets an average of nearly 1 million page views by 50,000 unique visitors. They stay on the site an average of 5.4 minutes and more than 80 percent take some action on the page before leaving.
Our target market
Our website also is a location seen as reliable and influential by our target market of college bound teens, according to an annual study by higher education consulting firm Noel-Levitz.
In this year's survey, 75 percent of college-bound juniors and seniors said colleges' own websites were influential in their school decision. It was by far the highest percentage in a list that included email marketing, general college planning sites, college rating sites and social media content.
According to "2013 e-Expectations: The Impact of Mobile Browsing on the College Search Process," 70 percent of college-bound teens say a college's website influences their perception of the college in general.
Now that the project is off the ground, the Web Team is inviting participation by the wider campus community.
First, Figleaf will be on campus in coming weeks to conduct listening sessions with students, staff and faculty members. They'll ask about challenges and problems with our current website and what features and content they'd like to experience in a new site.
Second, as the project moves forward, a larger web resdesign advisory group also will be formed to represent campus constituencies in the redesign process.
Stay tuned to the ReDesign Blog for the latest news and announcements.
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