What's New and What's Next
The Web site is now live.
Who Led the Redesign Team?
Data gathered from users was a core element of this project.
Chancellor Richard Herman and Provost Linda Katehi
This project was undertaken at their directive. They provided the vision for the University's future online and had final project approval.
Public Affairs Staff
While Val Turner and Joel Steinfeldt of Creative Services led the project and handled design, coding, information architecture, project management, user testing, and communications with the campus, they work closely with Web Services staff, staff at the News Bureau, which provides news content for the site, and Public Affairs and Creative Services communication and marketing experts.
Creative Services consulted with staff who handled past University redesign projects, staff at the Division of Disability Resources and Educational Services, campus Webmasters, chief communication officers, CITES staff working on the student portal, members of the Campus Rich Media group, and others.
- What's the nutshell history of our current site?
- Why did we need a redesign?
- How are people using the site ?
- What's the plan?
- How can I get involved?
- Contact information?
The first iteration of the old site was released in April 2003. It was the result of extensive user research, was clean and concise, and had clear navigation. As it grew and morphed over the next two years, new links and images were added.
The old site received a major face-lift in April 2005. The back end code went from a table-based layout to tableless CSS positioning, and with a little rouge and lipstick in the form of higher quality images and re-evaluated and improved navigation, it was ready for a few more years of functionality. But new links continued to be added, putting a heavy burden on the site's navigation and visual hierarchy.
The site has been redesigned several times prior to 2003. You can see older versions of the site by following these links to the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine:
- March 3, 1997
- December 12, 1998
- October 3, 1999
- November 27, 2002
- April 25, 2003
- January 23, 2005
- July 18, 2006
There are too many reasons to list them all, but here are a few:
- The old home page had too many links (180, to be exact), making navigation complicated and confusing.
- The visual language of the old home page was inconsistent. Sometimes orange text indicated a link, and sometimes it didn't. Sometimes headers (such as ?Calendars? and ?Explore Illinois?) are links, and sometime they?re not (?Announcements? and ?Colleges & Schools?).
- Headers didn't always clearly indicate what information will be found beneath them. For instance, the heading ?Explore Illinois? could have more clearly indicated that if a user were to click on the link, or any corresponding images beneath the header, he or she will be able to learn about the rich history, amazing opportunities, and incredible resources found on campus.
- The site's visual hierarchy was muddled, meaning that a user might not know where to start his or her experience. Should he or she first look at the latest new feature in the middle, let the Brilliant Futures Campaign link draw his or her attention, or focus on the top left resource links with the heavy blue background? A successful, easy-to-use site has a clear focus.
We?ve studied Google Analytics data about our site, as well as data from other sources, including Advanced Web Statistics.
- Express Email is the number one hit. Period.
- 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 next most-popular content, behind Express Email.
- Most people head straight to search functions instead of clicking on links.
- 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).
- We're local. Roughly 86 percent of our users are from Illinois, and 75 percent of Illinois users are located in Urbana-Champaign, most of them on campus.
- South Korea and China are our biggest international audiences, followed by India, the United Kingdom, Canada, Taiwan, and Spain. After English, the most popular language used by our audiences is Korean.
- Users find the ?A Minute with™? feature very interesting, particularly May Berenbaum?s take on the collapse of North American honey bee populations.
- The top search term people use to find us is "University of Illinois."
- The top search term internal to the site is "Compass+login," used by students, faculty and instructors looking for Illinois Compass, the online learning management system that delivers course assignments, grade information and course materials. A direct link was added to our current site in February in the Quick Links bar and on the Resources for Students page.
- When the redesign began, most people visited the site using Internet Explorer 6 or 7 (52 percent) and Firefox (35 percent) on Windows (84 percent). Fifteen percent use Macs. From Aug. 8 to Sept. 7, 2010, those figures had changed to IE (35.8 percent, with 68 percent using IE 8), Firefox 30 percent, Safari 23 percent, and Chrome 10.4 percent.
- Traffic continues to increase. The number of absolute unique visitors was 2.2 million in 2003, 3.1 million in 2004, 3.32 million in 2005, 3.97 million in 2006, 5.87 million in 2007, and 6.03 million in 2008. Traffic declined in 2009, to 5.048 million, most likely due to the launch of the Student Portal and the increasing use of Gmail.
Here's a brief overview of our process.
- Research: While the initial research phase of the project is complete, we will continue to gather as much information as possible about our audiences' behaviors and preferences. While we're already well up to our necks in data, we consider the information-gathering status of this project to always be ongoing.
- Presentations, Round I: We presented our information-gathering ?results? and the general plan for the redesign to campus in August and September 2007.
- The initial design process ended in October 2007.
- Design Revisions, Round I: The initial design was presented to the Chancellor and Provost in October 2007 and approved with the understanding that the design would be presented to our target audiences, modified based on their feedback, and presented again for approval.
- Design presentations: The initial design was shared in person with Chief Communications Officers, Webmasters, the Illinois Student Senate, faculty and staff, DRES, the Student Portal group, and all other audiences via the Web.
- The online feedback stage began in mid-December and ended in late February 2008. Audiences were asked to complete an online feedback survey and provide comments.
- Design Revisions: The design was modified based on user feedback, presented again along with designs for interior pages to the Chancellor and Provost, who approved the design with the understanding that the team would user test the site and revise it based on testing data.
- The design was "frozen" and coding of Dreamweaver templates began Feb. 27, 2008.
- The process of transferring the content from the current site to the new one began Feb. 29, 2008.
- The new site went live on Aug. 4, 2008.
- Now that the site is live, the team will conduct user testing. With all of the previous feedback from users, we hope to be fairly on target already, but user-testing the site will show us what really works and what needs some tweaking. We expect the site to need some fine-tuning within the navigational and/or layout functionality.
We will be looking for volunteers to user-test the site. Check back here for more information at a later date.
We value the comments and feedback of all the members of the Web Team, and that means you.
Multiple presentations have been made to faculty, staff, students, campus Webmasters, and chief communications officers. The initial design was viewed online 20,226 times and we received 847 responses to online feedback survey.
We encourage visitors to read the data analysis page, which explains the data driving the design, before viewing the page with a mockup of the initial home page design, the modified home page design, and interior page design that explains how the design reflects the data.
Have a question? Contact Joel .