Website Redesign Project
Wow. It has been quite the journey! Our project - which began 14 months ago - has brought us from research to reality with the site launching on August 17, 2018. Phase 2 will now begin, but if you want to catch up on the detail of what has gone into the concepts and development, please check out the blog below. THANKS to everyone who contributed to this effort!
Timeline of Site Development and Deployment
August 21, 2018 - Working Out The Kinks
The site is up and running! We are in the process of running diagnostics to fix broken links. From a project standpoint, we’re right where we expected to be!
Crawls are being done by Google and SiteImprove to map our new site, which is why the Search function is still giving limited or “page not found” results. These processes can take some time but are vital to our success moving forward.
We have received feedback that you would like to be able to search by name in the Faculty & Staff Directory. We’ll work on that in Phase Two and let you know when this new functionality is ready.
Thanks to all of you for your patience as we work out the kinks!
August 17, 2018 - The Time Has Come!
It’s hard to believe it, but the day is finally here. The new website was launched on Friday, Aug. 17, at 4:30 p.m.
In addition to presenting SU’s vision in a forward-facing format for prospective students, the new website also offers brand-new functionality, audience-specific landing pages and a great new look. We will be using the next few weeks to fix broken links and address other unexpected issues.
In Phase 2, the new website will be refined. We appreciate your patience as we move into the next phase of development. On behalf of the core development team, we thank everyone who contributed to helping us reach this exciting step in the process of SU’s movement into the future.
June-August 2018 - Site Migration Time
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time! The same can be said of the SU website. So many pages to review, edit, restructure, check for ADA compliance, add photos, change contacts, etc. The team has been working overtime to make sure all of the relevant content is carried over into the fresh, fast and fun new site.
Special consideration has been given to finding a way to keep important information - like Tuition and Fees - current. To that end, certain critical information will be located in one place so updating is easy. It also eliminates the issue of bad or out-of-date information staying out on the site.
June 2018 - Training the Trainers
Wow, it has been an intense few months of template refinement, component creation, database discussions and CMS integration. Finally, a two-day site visit was held on June 13-14 for SU developers to get in-depth instruction from the consultants on the technical aspects of the new templates and website.
February-April 2018 - Let’s Get Down to Business
With a clear path in mind, it’s time to get down to business. During the development stage, we’ll be focusing on:
- Design of interior templates
- Development of wireframes
- Static coding
- CSM integration
- Discussion of Libraries template
- Quality Assurance and Testing
Right now, our website has 80,000 pages with over 250 unique applications. Our goal is to bring the site down to 40,000 pages that really work. Ways to declutter the site include:
- Reorganizing the entire site so it is not based on SU’s organization chart
- Removing outdated and rarely visited content (more is no longer better)
- Evaluating if the content belongs elsewhere
Another goal is to improve our search engine optimization (SEO) capabilities. This is important because about 87% of prospective students/parents use organic searches to find information about schools. We need to make ourselves visible to that audience!
Boosting SU’s SEO results will require:
- Strategic placement of content
- Making the site consistent throughout
- Metadata that is clear and accurate
- Keyword integration
- Enhancing load times (photo galleries will be limited)
- Making sure we have short, relevant copy
- Making the site is responsive to smaller/mobile screens
We will need to regularly monitor SEO ranking factors, and content will need regular keyword review because the terminology changes over time. Closely monitoring URL naming and addressing broken links and duplicate content will also be important. Beyond the page view, we want to examine how organic traffic is responding to calls to action on our site.
We have had multiple changes and additions to our office staff to create the perfect team to bring this project to fruition. Working together, this is what we can expect in the coming months:
- SU/BREI team are working on template coding, data source mapping and QA
- Record and edit videos for 60 majors/graduate programs
- Take professional business portraits of all faculty and staff for the directory
- Take photos of more than 360 unique areas on campus
- Content mapping and pruning
- Deleting expired content
- Working through individual sites incorporating the strategy and SEO
- Developing a new workflow for content creation and population
- Reducing the number of people editing directly on the site
What does this mean for SU? Using the old site as a starting point, the team of web developers, designers, photographers, editors and writers will be adding relevant photos and content to freshen up the look and feel of the website pages. All the needed information will be there, but it will be slightly modified, checked for accuracy, shortened for readability, rewritten to update it and reviewed for timeliness.
During this phase, the website redesign project was highlighted at Februarys' Strategic Plan Celebration & Annual Library Pub Night. A posterboard featuring the progress to date was displayed.
Per the request from the Provost's Office, the population of tenure track faculty profiles will be done from the new Digital Measures/Activity Insight software platform.
Phase 1 of the project aims to launch the new website in mid-August. We will build in site map redirects, begin analytics and make adjustments as more traffic is generated.
Phases 2 and 3 will be happening over the next year. We will build databases to pull success stories, quotes and data to populate the new marketing pages.
We have great stories to tell, so let’s get out there and tell them!
January 2018 - A New Place to Call Home
The website concepts were reviewed by the President, Executive Staff members, Provost’s Council, Faculty Senate, Staff Senate and the Student Government Association. Our homepage design concept has been approved! A lot of thought went into this design, but why is it important?
Think of the internet like a busy street in a shopping district. A website’s homepage is like a storefront window. It shows a preview of what your site has to offer, and a website visitor, like a shopper looking in a window, makes a decision in a very short amount of time whether or not the website has anything of value to them. If your window isn’t appealing, shoppers move on very quickly.
With this in mind, a lot of effort was spent on designing the perfect storefront to encourage users to come in and stay a while. A few areas to note:
Overall Design Notes
- The intention of this design is to tell SU's story as visually as possible, so that prospective students can "see" themselves at SU.
- The design aims to deliver a sense of sophistication and quality without being stuffy or pretentious. We want to showcase the opportunity SU provides and highlight points of differentiation.
- Ample white space gives content room to shine and delivers an easily-scanned experience — one of our primary goals was to ensure that someone casually scrolling through the content would see and retain key messaging points and also be able to easily find their way to the deeper content they're after.
- We're proposing to use a strong, differentiating brand statement as the headline. While we're showing "A Maryland University of National Distinction" here, we know that tagline may change over time.
- The navigation bar was designed to allow the marquee photo to show on all sides, lending a more spacious, immersive feel to the image. To allow more room for content to shine, the navigation is not "sticky."
Life at Salisbury
- The intent with this section is to continue the "SU day in the life" perspective we began with the marquee. The SU student video appears opposite the intro copy and launches in a full-screen experience. The blocks below it provide links to Student Government, Greek Life and Seagull Athletics content and surface seasonally relevant imagery that shows off the rich life students can expect at SU.
With this, we’re preparing to move on to the development stage. It’s going to be a long stretch ahead, but there is so much to gain from this project that will help SU shine!
November 27, 2017 - Our Starting Off Point
November 2017: With the results of the survey and research from BarkleyREI, we now have a clear map ahead of us to improve the user experience on our website. Main recommendations are to:
- Reorganize site structure and focus high priority content to recruit students
- Streamline the first and second levels of the website
- Provide clear pathways for important content for secondary audiences
- Provide friendly, action-oriented labeling that prospective students can easily comprehend and use
- Make it quick and easy to find academic programs by implementing a program finder
- Increase findability of student support services
- Simplify progress through enrollment and give students a heads up of next steps
- Consolidate financial information and use templates that allow for more flexibility
- Provide a home for institution-based information with a typical “About” section
SU’s prospective students have told us what their top four questions are:
- Does SU have my program?
- Can I afford to go to SU?
- What is it like to live/study at SU?
- Where can I learn more about SU’s faculty?
We need to give them the answers as authentically, quickly and efficiently as possible.
We developed a site map to illustrate our plans for organization and navigation.
Now that we have a clear strategy, we’re moving on to the design phase of the process. If all stays on schedule, we’ll be presenting two concepts for the homepage on Friday, Dec. 1.
October 16, 2017 - The Survey Results are In!
October 16, 2017: The survey received a strong response. This indicates a very involved campus population, something to be proud of!
The survey identified the top four reasons why people select Salisbury University as their preferred college:
- Academic programs
- Campus recreation/athletics
- Campus culture
People were asked to rate how easy it is to find information on the current website, with very neutral results overall. Faculty and staff were the least satisfied. A major issue is the fact that most visitors to the site must use the search to navigate. Satisfaction would increase by creating a better user experience (UX).
But there is good news, too! Both students and faculty and staff were asked to describe SU in one word, with very positive results that overlap with our core values. Key adjectives were:
A lot of students even called their SU experience “amazing”!
We conducted two exercise sessions with Admissions and Marketing as part of a UX workshop to identify key differentiators that students appreciate at SU:
- Student centered
Prospective students looking for their “fit” feel like they find it at SU after a campus visit. Most freshmen know faculty members are dedicated to their success and look up to their instructors as among the best in their field. They also appreciate that multiculturalism and LGBQT students are supported in a close-knit community.
For senior students, they believe they have experienced academic success that has made them aware of how capable they are. They report forging powerful bonds with faculty and staff and want to return the favor by mentoring underclassmen.
Overall, SU has an opportunity to be a big fish in a small pond. A more accessible website would help attract even more students to the bright community SU has to offer.
The primary target audience for the new website will be prospective students. By analyzing prospective students’ use of the current website, some frustrations were cited:
- Too many clicks to find info
- Outdated information
- Antiquated look and feel
- Cannot easily view pages on mobile
We want to make our website easy to navigate and provide clear paths to the high-value content users are seeking. Right now, a user does not know where to go, given all the options. Just to put it in perspective, we have 189 items on the second level of the website. Given this high volume, search engines are also confused on what is priority content, making it hard for users to pull up SU in their searches.
To provide a framework for the overhaul of the website, we identified the top content students look for on a college website:
- Academics (program listings, details, rankings)
- Money (cost, scholarships)
- Enrollment (application process, admissions events, counselor contacts)
- Life (residence, students, athletics)
- Wayfinding (location, directions)
Academics was overwhelmingly the top response. Some goals were identified for the new website to promote our strengths:
- Make it easy to find academic programs
- Build out faculty and staff profiles
- Provide visually impactful experience design
- Show a sense of place and community
- Responsive web design
- Web content governance
Storytelling can take many forms on the new site and provide great benefits for SU. Student success stories, faculty research, alumni active in the community – all of these things contribute to the prospective student decision making process, and any one of them could be the difference for someone choosing SU. For this, we need better program content:
- Contextualize programs to give prospective students an understanding of what it’s like to learn at SU
- Leverage new photos and video to help support content
- Share related faculty and research information on program landing pages
- Provide information to help students properly self select
- Show a sense of place so our audience can imagine themselves at SU
The opportunity here is significant. The positives are all around us. Our next website will bring them all together!
October 5, 2017 - And the Winners Are ...
October 5, 2017: You shared your thoughts on SU’s website and we provided the prizes!
Thank you to the over 1,100 faculty, staff and students who took the time to complete the SU website redesign survey. From those who chose to enter their name for the prize drawing, we are pleased to announce the winners:
Our Student Winners:
- Brianna Billings – iPad
- Lauren Millette – Apple Watch
Our Faculty Winners:
- Dagmar Berry, Sociology – iPad
- Brent Zaprowski, Geography and Geosciences – Amazon Fire TV stick
Our Staff Winners:
- Gail Larmore, Admissions – iPad
- Nicole Vann, Student Affairs – Amazon Fire TV stick
Next Steps: We are reviewing your input and hope to provide a project update in November.
Thanks again and stay tuned!
September 21, 2017 - Surveys are Going Out!
September 21, 2017: Surveys will be emailed to all faculty, staff and students today. Please take time to compete them … and encourage your colleagues to do the same. The more feedback we get during this stage, the better the end solution will be. All comments are greatly appreciated and respected.
Share your thoughts and you could win!
Faculty, staff and students are encouraged to complete the survey by Thursday, September 28, to be entered for a chance to win great prizes. Check your email for details.
September 18, 2017 - Site Visit and Campus Discovery Sessions
September 18, 2017: The Website Redesign Project Consultant Site Visit – held Tuesday, September 12, and Wednesday, September 13 – brought together representatives from all over campus. During the two-day visit, there were 16 discovery sessions and more than 225 participants. BREI noted that the level of campus participation was very high compared to most of their clients. Thank you to everyone who took time out of their very busy schedules to participate in these exercises. Many of you shared your views, and these comments will help us to create a new site based on what makes SU unique. Just a few “takeaways” from these sessions include:
- This project is not about putting a new “skin” on the existing site. It is about restructuring the entire site to be more focused on the user’s needs.
- The “homepage” of the new site will be focused on recruiting new students and their parents.
- This project does not include GullNet or MyClasses.
- The Web Office will conduct an audit of actual Content Creators and the membership will be significantly reduced to reflect those who truly post information to the website. These Content Experts will be trained on how to write for the website. Training sessions will most likely be conducted late January – February 2018.
- Everyone is encouraged to begin the process of evaluating the content on their site for relevance and accuracy. Our goal will be to shorten the messages. Using site analytics, text and content will be eliminated if there has been no traffic to the page in the past 6-12 months.
- The online forms you are currently using to conduct day-to-day business will not change.
- Functional website forms (PDFs) will be accessed and may eventually be handled via DocuSign and through PeopleSoft (Bolt-on) pages.
- Required accreditation program data will be applied to all pages as needed.
Next Step: Surveys will be emailed by the end of this week to all faculty, staff and students. Please take time to compete them … and encourage your colleagues to do the same. The more feedback we get during this stage, the better the end solution will be.
September 5, 2017 - Redesign Project Begins
September 5, 2017: SU has partnered with BarkleyREI (BREI), based in Pittsburgh, PA, to develop SU’s new strategic website design. This award-winning company has extensive experience in higher education and in developing successful sites based on current trends and best practices. The vision for the new SU website will be informed by robust research, online surveys and interviews of students, faculty, staff, donors, alumni, community members, etc. The tentative completion date of this project is fall 2018.
In line with SU’s enrollment goals, the primary audience for the website is prospective students, but since this will be a complete overhaul of the site, it also will include multiple sub-audiences (faculty, staff, current students, alumni, donors, community members, etc.). Marketing best practices, responsive design, a strategic content strategy, Search Engine Audit /Optimization and ADA compliance will be included.
Moving forward, the process is broken into segments:
- Discovery: Onsite meetings with the leadership, faculty/staff/student organizations, admissions, alumni, donors, etc. Analyze our existing website analytics and set up benchmarks.
- Customer Journey Research: Survey and summarize users, prioritize content needs, evaluate priorities and analyze competitor sites.
- Information Architecture: Develop a visual map of all of the key pages on the site based on audience needs. Map out these user flows. Develop wireframe for the majority of the University website with sub-sites for schools/colleges.
- Visual Design: Lead SU through a review of competitor and aspirational websites to establish a style direction. Produce concept and extend the design to more pages based on several different layouts (or wireframes). Provide a design style guide detailing fonts, colors, etc.
- Content: Marketing text needs to be written; Photo approach determined.
- Site Development in CMS to include testing and trouble shooting.
We look forward to working with everyone to create the next generation of SU’s website.