In January 2013, University Communications and Media Relations began a redesign of the official UCCS institutional website homepages, previously managed by IT Web Services, with the goal of developing a long-term strategic vision, content strategy, information architecture and user-experience design to help achieve the mission of the UCCS homepage. University Communications and Media Relations worked closely with the Information Technology Department and sought broad participation from campus.
How It All Got Started
Throughout 2012, University Advancement and Information Technology, working with Institutional Research, conducted a wide variety of primary and secondary research for the project including key stakeholder interviews, general campus input (interviews, surveys, feedback), peer and competitor review, industry white papers and best practices, and review of existing usage data and KPIs, and analysis of existing content and design. The findings, from what we called the discovery phase, were used to developed a project charter and inform project planning.
The project aim was to create a cohesive set of institutional website homepages, addressing the high-profile general-purpose pages of the UCCS website (the "first few clicks") and implement a strategy that supports the university's current needs and allows us the flexibility to meet future requirements. The goal was to contribute to the credibility and positive reputation of the university, and improve the experiences of prospective students, current students, faculty, staff and partners in their work and study.
The project focuses on general, top-level informational pages, and will continue to direct traffic to the various department- and office-level websites.
The goal is not a radical redesign; not "design for design's sake." The project will be a collection of many small, meaningful changes addressing specific, well-identified user issues based on real user feedback, usage data, and industry best practices. The goal is to establish a solid baseline on which to build and develop into the future, with a resolution to pursue continual improvement.
IT Web Services continues to develop and maintain the Web Content Management System (wCMS) and work with colleges, departments, offices, and programs to assist with developing their individual websites.
As this project begins, the current homepage will continue to be maintained, though beyond regular updates to the calendar, news, and photos, and other routine maintenance, no major changes are planned. Any issues with the current website should be reported to IT Web Services.
The UCCS Leadership Team reviewed and approved the project charter. Advancement began a basic content inventory analysis, cataloging existing content and working with IT Web Services to collect information on the previous content strategy. A feedback mechanism was also added to the homepage to begin collecting ongoing ratings and feedback from visitors, and Advancement compiled and categorized the feedback and suggestions from earlier research.Project Charter for the UCCS Institutional Website January 2013 Project Outline January 2013
Server logs for 2012 were delivered by IT and analyzed. Findings were combined with information from previous surveys, interviews, and other information from the earlier discovery phase to begin developing a list of goals, requirements, strategies, and content needs. Advancement also began compiling baseline data for tracking metrics.Ten Recommendations (UCCS Website Survey) February 2013 Sample Feedback (UCCS Website Survey) February 2013 Categorized Feedback Overview (UCCS Website Survey) February 2013 Project Goals with Specific Measures February 2013
A small working group to support the development of the site information architecture is being put together, and we are gathering the materials and strategies for that group's activities. Materials include background on IA, activities for the group, and an initial collection of content requirements using data from the discovery phase, including the Prospective Student Subcommittee findings, UCCS Website Survey findings, white papers and secondary research, competitor analysis, search term analysis, server logs and traffic analytics.
We captured some "before" information, performance measurements, usage data and screenshots and to make sure we had an inventory of the current state of the various homepages for future reference.
The Information Architecture Working Group met several times and developed an early site map working draft informed by usage data, navigation convention research, industry white papers, best practices and secondary research.
Because site usage analytics are not currently tracked in a comprehensive way, Advancement worked with IT to have basic click-tracking set up on the home pages to begin collecting very elementary usage and visitor flow data. Insights from the early click-tracking data were integrated into the content requirements for the Information Architecture working group.Content Area Brainstorm April 2013 Information Architecture Working Group April 2013 Navigation Convention Analysis April 2013 Information Architecture Initial Groupings Draft April 2013
The Strategy Phase is wrapping up and the Design and Development Phase will begin shortly (more information about the project phases are available in the Project Outline PDF.) A summary of the project progress was given to the Information Technology Advisory Counsel, the UCCS Communicators Group, and the Integrated Marketing Committee. The draft sitemap based on the findings from the Information Architecture working group has settled in to place, and will be used when prototyping begins.Information Architecture Draft Sitemap May 2013
Early front-end design work is beginning, including design convention exploration, style tiles, wireframes, and page types. Early discussions about CMS integration are taking place with IT Web Services. Quotes for assistance with content production have been requested.
Early front-end design work (such as style tiles and wireframes) have gone through several iterations, with feedback and participation from IT Web Services and campus volunteers, and direction from informal user testing. Front-end design work will soon transition from abstract to rapid prototyping. A project overview was presented to the Leadership Team to reiterate the basic project information.Style Tile v7 July 2013 Wireframes July 2013 Project Overview July 2013
Front-end prototyping (combining information architecture, style tiles, and wireframes into early HTML to test and develop in browser) has begun.
Content copy is being researched and written. Early front-end prototypes were shared with IT Web Services and campus volunteers for feedback and guidance.
Front-end prototypes are maturing, and some draft copy is being integrated into the prototypes for user testing before CMS integration begins.Prototypes v14 October 2013
Findings, recommendations, draft content and preliminary design work will be delivered to IT Web Services to begin implementation and completion of remaining phases in coordination with Megan Gallegos.
DocumentsPrototypes v14 October 2013 Style Tile v7 July 2013 Wireframes July 2013 Project Update / Overview July 2013 Information Architecture May 2013 Information Architecture Initial Groupings Draft April 2013 Navigation Convention Analysis April 2013 Content Area Brainstorm April 2013 Information Architecture Working Group April 2013 Ten Recommendations (UCCS Website Survey) February 2013 Sample Feedback (UCCS Website Survey) February 2013 Categorized Feedback Overview (UCCS Website Survey) February 2013 Project Goals with Specific Measures February 2013 Project Outline January 2013 Project Charter for the UCCS Institutional Website January 2013
Opportunities to Get Involved
Project updates will be posted to this website, and shared with various campus groups such as the Information Technology Advisory Committee (ITAC), the Integrated Marketing Committee, and the UCCS Communicators group.
Feedback is always welcomed and appreciated. Consider submitting feedback and suggestions, as well as rating the current website, using the feedback mechanism on the homepage.
If you would like to volunteer time, or have any questions or comments, please contact Jeff Foster.