SVSU contracted with The Image Group (TIG), from Holland, Mich., to redesign the http://www.svsu.edu/ website. TIG has a four phase work process to redesign a site.
Redesigning the website has been planned for some time. The existing research conducted recently was shared with TIG, providing valuable insights into who we are as a University, our users, and more importantly, the current state of our website. Reports from an audit of http://www.svsu.edu/ conducted by Stamats (summer 2008) and the Student-View® report published by Student Insights were provided to TIG.
To help understand internal audience wants and needs on the website, focus groups were held on campus with current students, faculty and staff. These focus groups were held on two different dates and with two different objectives for each date. The first date focused on the external perception of the SVSU (on the website) and meeting the needs of traditional undergraduate students. The second day focused on the internal use of the website for faculty and staff and the needs of graduate students. Focus groups were conducted by TIG with the following SVSU participants:
Students also participated in a focus group. For privacy reasons, their names are being withheld.
The focus groups overwhelmingly agreed that the website needs to feature more of the elements which make SVSU unique for external audiences. The website should showcase the University. Students, faculty and staff also want the website to work better:
Internal audiences identified four areas of concern with regard to the website. If these areas are addressed, it would dramatically improve the site.
1) Improve the search engine functionality
2) Improve the navigation/ site structure
3) Update the design
4) Delete old, outdated information.
The insights from the focus groups, reports from Stamats (summer 2008) and the Student-View® report published by Student Insights provided the research necessary to begin the next phase, Information Architecture.
The Information Architecture phase develops the site map and wireframes. Based on the reseach and best practices of web design and navigation used by other universities across the country, SVSU's new navigation is activity-centered. A site map lists out each page, and creates the overall navigation based on user-based tasks and intuition.
Wireframes are the framework of a website. They are intended to show navigation, priority, functionality, and content areas. The primary purpose is to focus on the elements of pages, what types of and how much information should be on the page. They are minus color, design, photos intentionally. Wireframes are not the final design or layout. Elements will evolve in color, size, shape and layout.
Usability tests, using paper wireframes, were conducted among 4 faculty, 8 staff, 7 current students and 9 prospective students (students were attending freshmen orientation) from June 5-14, 2009. Faculty and staff from the focus group participants. Current students were chosen at random in Starbucks during the Spring 2009 session.
Usability testing provided feedback on the proposed wireframes. As a result of this feedback, a couple key navigational titles were changed, and other changes made to improve the user experience.
Finally, the fun stuff! TIG creates the homepage design and subpage designs based on wireframes. The design includes color, layout, typography and design elements. Note, however, that things are still evolving, and placement of photos and text are for position and may change before the site goes live.
This is the part that is done by "techies." The design is built into our existing content management system, TYPO3, and then integrated into existing web pages.