Redesign: Driven by data
After consulting with the Chancellor and Provost to determine their vision for the project, Creative Services consulted with experts on and off-campus. After gathering and analyzing more than a year's worth of data regarding user behavior on the site, we began to design a site that met the vision of the Chancellor and Provost, the guidance of experts, and the demonstrated behaviors and preferences of users.
The design of the new home page is wholly driven by data from those sources.
We encourage visitors to read this page, which explains the data driving the design, before viewing the page with a mockup of the initial design and a mockup of how the design was modified based on user feedback. Visitors are also encouraged to read an explanation on the design page of how the design reflects the data.
The most common questions we've been asked are on this page; we'll add more as feedback from users continue.
Vision for the site came from meetings with Chancellor Herman and Provost Katehi in June of 2007. Their general vision for the new design was similar, but complementary when it differed. Here are key points from the two conversations:
Chancellor Herman spoke about wanting to differentiate Illinois?s excellence from the excellence of other universities. Along with this, he wanted a traditional site with modern elements that expresses a vision of the future while reflecting the university?s rich history. He was also interested in having a mix of technology and art, a "YouTube"/Web 2.0 interactivity, a reduction in the number of links on the page, and in addition, he was very interested in creating a Web site policy to determine what information is placed on the home page.
Provost Katehi is interested in our need for common navigation and link terminology, thus creating a better navigation system that both reduces the number of links on the homepage and gets users to the information they are seeking as fast as possible. She also wanted us to show our campus?s rich diversity.
- Visitor behavior
- Express Email is the number one hit.
- More than half the users are current and prospective students. Information and services for current and prospective students and academic information about the University are the most popular content.
- Users are high-tech. They have big monitors (98.3 percent have a screen resolution of 1024x768 or higher) and a broadband connection (only 1 percent of traffic from January 28 to February 27, 2008, was dialup).
- Roughly 86 percent of our audience is from Illinois, and 75 percent of Illinois users are located in Urbana-Champaign, most of them on campus or just off-campus in private housing.
- Design approaches
There are two main methods of presenting information on the home page.
- Bubble up
Used on the old Web site, the bubble up approach shows the University's excellence and strengths by including many news items, calendar items, features, and announcements that show the activity and vibrancy of the campus. Drawbacks.
The branded approach conveys a tone of prestige, elegance, and a mix of high technology and the arts presented in a traditional environment unique to our campus while getting users swiftly to the information they seek. This is the approach taken in the redesign.
- Bubble up
- Focus on user technology
Since almost all of our users have large monitors and broadband connections, the page design is larger and includes larger images. The content of the site is still accessible to users with older technology or slower connections.
- Design for user behavior
Most visitors to the site are searching for information off the site, much of it content that appears on the Web sites of other campus units. The new design grouped search functions for people, information, and maps, together to make it easier for users to find the information they seek.
- Design for accessibility
The site is universally accessible and has valid code.
- Reduce links
The new design reduced the number of links on the old home page (more than 100, not counting the Quick Links), and simplified navigation.
- Designing for audience
The new design focuses on delivering information for our largest users groups, current and prospective students
- Designing for future change
As the student portal continues to grow, much of the current student traffic should migrate to that site. The design of the home page must be flexible so that content may be added or eliminated over the next five years.
- Graphic standards
The new design follows the graphic standards for the University and the Brilliant Futures campaign.
- Web 2.0 components
The new site encourages users to share content and collaborate.
The site is visually different than the typical horizontal image with three-column layout common in higher education Web sites. Examples:
- Emergency messaging capability
The site includes the ability to notify users of an emergency on campus.