Website redesign will boost accessibility

January 22, 2016

Brandeis’ Web Team is in the process of redesigning the university website. Although the university homepage was redesigned in 2011, the website templates for departments and offices are from 2007. “In web years, they are old!” Director of Digital Communications Audrey Griffin-Goode said in an email to The Brandeis Hoot. The website may not look outdated, but it is being redesigned in order to make it more accessible and meet the demands of the social media age.

Goode said, “The new templates will have a modern design, streamlined content and improved usability. Best of all, they will be mobile friendly—easily viewed on a smartphone or tablet—and accessible to visitors with disabilities.”

This project has been going on for a while; the process of redesigning the website first began in the fall of 2014 with planning and research. A web team was put together, consisting of both staff from the Office of Communications and Library and Technology Services (LTS). There are eight members on the team in total, two from LTS and six from the Office of Communications.

Goode said that the Web Team began by asking web editors on campus what features they would like to see in the new templates, and the project progressed from there. According to the redesign website, the team issued a request for proposals from potential redesign partners. In January, the Web Team received proposals from these potential partners, and throughout the months of February and March, they were assessed based on on-campus presentations. The Web Team finally settled on Chicago-based web strategy firm mStoner in April 2015.

“Since 2001, mStoner has worked with more than 300 colleges, universities and professional schools in the United States and abroad,” a statement on the redesign website said. “The firm focuses on research, data and results.”

Goode said that in June, mStoner led a series of discovery sessions on campus with students, faculty and staff to get feedback on what they want to see in a new website. The Web Team also turned to other university websites for inspiration.

“The Web Team reviewed many websites (particularly other universities) in preparation for redesign. Additionally, mStoner audited the current web presence of 14 of Brandeis’ peer and aspirant institutions and considered multiple facets for each site. We have been inspired by the design and features of many of the sites,” Goode said.

The process continued on Jan. 15, when students received an email from the Brandeis Web Team requesting that students take a survey to give their feedback on the layout and design of the new university website. The survey included samples of of two design concepts for the new website and asked students to pick three words to describe each design and highlight in green the parts of the design they liked while highlighting in red the parts they did not. In the email, students were told that their views and feedback would help determine the direction the website redesign goes in.

The Web Team has ambitious goals for the new website. Goode said that the new website will be mobile friendly, so that students can enjoy a seamless user experience no matter what device they are using. The redesign will also be much more accessible to users with disabilities. Additionally, to reflect how dynamic Brandeis is, “The new website will have a modern design, better social media and multimedia integration and an updated, content-focused approach that shows our core audiences the university’s best qualities,” Goode said.

The Web Team hopes to start launching the new sites in late summer. They first have to migrate content from the original site into the new templates, which will take place in multiple phases since there are 22,000 live pages in the current templates, Goode said.

Goode wants the redesigned website to be the best it can be in order to reflect on the university. She said, “We need to make sure that our new website will reach the students, faculty and staff that we want to attract. Brandeis has so much to be proud of. We need to showcase that through our front door—our website.”

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