Why?

The short answer is that CC is an awesome college and our website should reflect that. The web and our use and expectations of it have changed vastly since our last major redesign in 2004:

  • the web is the first stop for people seeking information
  • desktop and laptop screen resolution (i.e. size) has increased dramatically, while mobile devices with small screens have become commonplace
  • the use of video has exploded
  • dynamic content has become much more prevalent and therefore, more expected
  • tools for getting content on the web have become more accessible to more people
  • the web has become a much more social place

We have all worked hard to keep pace with the latest advances in technology and communication, but there is a need to periodically evaluate and update some of the fundamental components of our site. This includes the technology running the server behind the scenes, the information architecture (how things are organized), the contents of the website and the visual design.

Read on for a longer answer to “Why?”…

Current Status

  1. The back-end infrastructure is out of date. The primary CC web server is currently running multiple scripting languages, to include Active Server Pages (also known as Classic ASP or ASP), PHP and ColdFusion. The top level sites are primarily running on ASP, which was Microsoft’s first server-side scripting engine, launched in 1996. The most recent version of ASP (3.0) was released in 2000. ASP is no longer under active development and no further releases are planned.
  2. The information architecture has not been evaluated and refined since 2004; meanwhile, the site has grown significantly, leading to search, navigation and usability issues.
  3. The current design of the CC standard layout was designed in 2004.  While the design still functions reasonably well and has been updated to incorporate more contemporary web features and conventions (social media, easily accessible search, etc.), the overall look is dated. Fonts are too small and significant real estate on current monitors isn’t effectively utilized.
  4. Due to the distributed nature of web authoring on campus, the site lacks cohesiveness and continuity below the top-level pages. There is a sometimes a deficiency of CC branding and inconsistent navigation location, layout and style are detrimental to usability. Additionally, web authoring is often performed by individuals for whom web authoring is a secondary or tertiary responsibility (e.g. staff assistants, paraprofs, students) and whose backgrounds do not lend themselves to success at web authoring. The current architecture of the site requires the use of specialized software, such as Dreamweaver, Contribute and Photoshop. This creates a significant need for training.
  5. The Luminis web portal implementation is faltering, due to several factors: staffing cuts, out-dated technology, etc. The status and direction of a campus-wide portal is unclear, and some question the need for one.  However, the admission office is eager to implement a portal for recruiting purposes.

Goals

While a website redesign is usually interpreted as a visual redesign, our process must be much broader; we intend to redesign visually, architecturally and from a process and procedure standpoint.

  1. Update the back-end infrastructure. This may include the server software itself, as well has hardware.
  2. Perform an exhaustive evaluation and refinement of the information architecture to meet the goals of our community. Define a web-authoring process to ensure that content is kept up-to-date.
  3. Update the overall structure, navigation and visual design of the top level pages.
  4. Evaluate and, if appropriate, implement a Content Management System and/or web style guide to facilitate authoring and consistency of departmental sites.
  5. Evaluate and, if appropriate, implement web portal(s), e.g. campus-wide and/or admission.

9 thoughts on “Why?

  1. Cheri Gamble

    Working with parents and students we get a lot of feedback that finding their way around the site is very difficult. Parents seem to be unable to find the student accounts page where there is a great deal of information and a place to make a payment online. What can be done to make the site more user friendly and easier to search for things?

  2. Eric

    Karen et al.
    The first priority should be on revamping the actual content on the web, which is woefully out of date with broken links, irrelevant information, and staff listings (on occasion) that are years old.
    The second biggest gripe is navigation, or put more bluntly “the number of clicks from A to B,” on the website. Finally, I’m just glad that re-design is in the works. The current one looks like it was made ca 2000 and hasn’t moved since.
    I would also like us to reflect who and what we are in cyberspace.
    - Let’s stop using the word “awesome” and keep to excellence.
    - Academics come first, right? Let’s emphasize that in our re-design.
    - The block simply mimics the pace of “real life” after CC, and that should be front and center in both our message, our recruiting, and our on-going retention efforts. Let’s not mince words and let’s not put down the intensity of the block. For as long as we have this academic schedule we should champion it.
    - There should be a “course of the block or week” feature front and center on the first page (including the internal page) that greets all visitors. See above bullets for why we should do this – there are simply too many excellent courses, field ideas, and on going student research to overlook this opportunity.
    - More interaction between current academics and past alums should be emphasized to make the link for people that we don’t just let them “drift” after CC — that we teach life-long learning skills REGARDLESS of major, and that a philosophy major can just as easily become a CEO, as a biology major can become an organic farmer or NGO worker.

  3. Steve Lawson

    Excellent. I’m sure parts of this will be painful, but I think it’s time. I hope the college considers web standards and accessibility up-front this time around. I think any solution that *doesn’t* involve a CMS of some sort would be a solution we would quickly regret.

  4. Mark Saviano

    Greetings.

    Let me phrase my thoughts on a redesign in a hopes/concerns framework.

    Stated Goals:
    1. Update the back-end infrastructure. This may include the server software itself, as well has hardware.

    If those who know feel the infrastructure needs updating I am all for it. I just hope that consideration is given to the way changes in programming can affect end users (like myself) managing various pages in the site.

    2. Perform an exhaustive evaluation and refinement of the information architecture to meet the goals of our community. Define a web-authoring process to ensure that content is kept up-to-date.

    I strongly agree that keeping info up to date is an important goal and that many pages on the college site get neglected. Developing a system to minimize which pages need constant updating and developing a schedule/plan for those that do is well worth while. As far as architecture, other than CC labeling and consistency I have found the architecture perfectly manageable. I do not generally have any trouble finding my way to the online resources I need to utilize. I’d like to hear more about what architectural difficulties are perceived to exist?

    3. Update the overall structure, navigation and visual design of the top level pages.

    Yes, the site badly needs consistency of visual appearance across all subdivisions. It also needs consistent instituting of the horizontal (top) college menu structures and consistent (but individualized) vertical menus for departments and offices. I do worry though that a system will be adopted that prevents the desired customization by dept and office and “handcuffs” end users (page creators). I hope a proper *balance* between consistency and flexibility will be adopted.

    4. Evaluate and, if appropriate, implement a Content Management System and/or web style guide to facilitate authoring and consistency of departmental sites.

    Consistency on the current site is a major problem that definitely needs to be addressed. My concern with a content management system (based on preliminary reviews) is that it takes nearly *all* presentational choice out of the hands of a page administrator. It becomes “cookie-cutter.” The user just inputs raw information (like text) and the system decides almost all formatting options for them. Whatever system is adopted I hope it allows sufficient flexibility of design while maintaining consistency – the “balance” I spoke of above.

    5. Evaluate and, if appropriate, implement web portal(s), e.g. campus-wide and/or admission.

    Other than organizing links I’m not sure what is intended in this mention of portals? I’d like to hear more specifics.

    Sincerely,
    -Mark

  5. kelly mooney

    From my experience, it’s critical to be clear about the overall objective of the exercise – how will the site be used to advance the business of the college? Elevate the reputation? Increase the volume and quality of applicants? Etc.. And, how will that be measured? Too few initiatives like this begin with a “business” brief that holds the planning, design and technical implementation to a higher order set of objectives and success criteria. By doing so, priorities are clear to the team (and stakeholders) throughout the process.

  6. Donny Baker

    I applaud your efforts and your plan. Please request the help and cooperation of the IM division in whatever capacity they are needed. I think their resources should be tapped to help in the planning process as well as the deveelopment process. It should be supported from the top down from all over campus that we all contribute and help in this effort. I welcome the upcoming changes and challenges and wish you well in your endeavor.

  7. Karen Post author

    Thanks, everyone, for your thoughtful comments. Reviewing and updating our information architecture is one of the key tasks for this process. Done correctly, it should result in much improved navigation and structure for the site as a whole. Finding the information you need on our site should not be an exercise in frustration for any of our constituents.

    Eric, yes, we intend to initiate a site-wide content review. This is obviously of great importance to improve our site in the long run and doing a redesign without it would be short-sighted. We’ll need help from every department to accomplish this.

    Mark, when we use the term “portal”, these are some of the features we’re looking for: single sign-on to eliminate the need to remember so many usernames and passwords; the ability for our constituents to have content customized to their interests/roles; the ability to perform administrative functions (such as registering for classes, viewing your class schedule, entering your leave report or hours, check the status of your application, etc.)

    If I’ve missed anything (about portal or other), please chime in!

    Kelly, great point which I think merits a separate post.

  8. Brian Thomson

    Here are my two cents:

    1. Start with a clear understanding and statement defining CC’s brand identity. Defining in detail who we are, how we are different, what our personalty is, what it is like to be part of CC, etc. will help drive the development of a website which represents CC well.

    2. Simplify, simplify, simplify. When I look at our current homepage, we have way too much going on and very poor visual demarcation of what is most important versus less important. There should be several clear visual levels of information in order to help guide the eye logically through the homepage.

    3. Analyze usage data to understand current utilization paths versus desired paths.

    4. Human factors testing of prototypes. Before settling on a given design, test it with our target market.

    5. Use open source development code.

    6. Seek outside help and perspective. We have a wealth of talent in our alumni base. Leverage it to insure we have the best possible thought and experience on this critical marketing mechanism.

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