Recently, someone from the outside asked me about Chapman’s new website. I decided to include part of my response back to them on this blog in case anyone else would benefit from it. See below:
Chapman’s current website is approximately 10 years old, so we wanted to be sure to hit this one out of the park. We had to do this, however, on an accelerated timeline. Chapman’s old CMS is not supported in IE 8 or 9… or Firefox, Chrome, or virtually any other browser. Since IE 7 is going out the door (Google does not even support it anymore) we had to get off our old CMS ASAP. Not to mention the Accessibility, navigation, design, and virtually everything else needed to be fixed as soon as possible. Once we have brought the site back up to 2012 standards, we’ll do a 2.0 version that hopefully catapults us into the top tier of University websites.
Social Media integration
- Most pages in the new Chapman website will have a ‘share bar’ that will allow users to share specific pages of the new website.
- The various schools/departments/offices/etc can easily include links to their social media accounts on their pages.
- The 2.0 version of the website will include a “social media hub” that will consolidate the ‘official’ Chapman Facebook, twitter, youtube, (etc) accounts.
- The 2.0 version should also include the ability to embed feeds to some of the pages of the Chapman website. This is still being brainstormed.
Content Architecture and Navigation
- One of the big concerns regarding the old website was navigation. Barkley REI did a fantastic job suggesting a new content architecture. Their 3rd party eyes were incredibly valuable as they were able to analyze the website from an outsider’s perspective. We took their suggestions, and built our new website for the connivence of the user. Our old site was built form an insider’s point of view. In other words, people had to know how Chapman was set up to navigate the old site, but the new site should be easy to navigate for a first time user.
- To our knowledge, we will be the first University to have a ‘welcome back’ page. This is a page that personalizes the website’s navigation. It remembers recently visited pages, most frequently visited pages, and even lets you save your own links for fast and easy access to the pages you love most.
‘Web Friendly’ content
- Writing for the web is different than writing for print. Chapman’s site in the past didn’t have much ‘web friendly’ content. We requested that content owners in each department resist the temptation to copy and paste. We policed this as well, making sure that people were not taking the easy way out. We did not want the old content wrapped in a new design, we wanted a truly new website. This (in combination with content architecture) was by far the most time consuming, and politically difficult piece of the process. We worked closely with approximately 140 representatives, approximately one from each department/school/college/office, who wrote new content, and submitted this content to our Web Coordinators who then made changes or suggestions where necessary. Overall, this worked quite well, and the new website content
- We provided the content authors (140 individuals) with custom training on writing for the web best practices and by appointment, one on one followups with their Web Coordinator.
Accessibility / web standards
Chris Cox team at BREI has taken additional steps to make sure that our site is accessible, and has prepared a document outlining the steps they have taken. If this document would be of interest to you, I’m happy to provide it to you.
Search Engine Optimization
- URL’s in the new website are much more SEO friendly
- Chris Cox team did a SEO evaluation for our old site, and determined keywords and strategy that will insure significant improvement. We have many more details on this but will spare you at this time.
Though the old site was created approximately 10 years ago, it received a minor facelift between 4 and 6 years ago. None the less, the old site is very ‘2000.’ The new site is modern, attractive, and the technology that powers it is also very up to date. Lots of motion without the use of flash, iPad, iPhone, Android, Windows 7 phone, Windows 8 OS, (on and on) friendly. In fact, the site automatically re-sizes depending on the device you are using. If you look at Chapman’s current homepage on a computer, it will look different than if you look at it on an iPhone. Very advanced stuff – we’re truly excited about it.
We’re also taking the opportunity to re-vamp the way news works at Chapman. https://blogs.chapman.edu will soon light up with school and college blogs making it easy for faculty and staff to share news about their areas. For example, the (still under construction) Business School blog is here: https://blogs.chapman.edu/asbe . In the 2.0 version, the news will be able to ‘re-share’ perhaps like pintrest, Google +, or Facebook and become promoted to the central news source – https://blogs.chapman.edu/happenings . Blogs also feed directly into the new site VIA RSS and display on University pages, (including college/school specific pages).
During the lengthy and complex planning that went into the website redesign we took a number of steps to involve faculty and other members of the community. For example we did try to make the process transparent, including a public blog at https://blogs.chapman.edu/smc. We do have one member of the faculty on the Web Core Team, a small group that started as 7 people. We also had the web advisory committee which was an assembly of about 25-30 people and multiple faculty served there as well. We remain open to requests to serve on the web advisory committee.
In addition, Chris Cox and Barkley REI included the faculty on the ‘discover session;’ the first part of the web overhaul process. He may be able to talk about this in more detail if you are curious.
Unfortunately, these efforts may not have reached everyone’s ears and there may be many untapped ideas out there. If you (or anyone else) has suggestions on how to improve the website, now or at any time in the future, we’d love to hear from you!
Thanks for reading. As always, feel free to comment below.