NEWS

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February 12, 2008

Redesigned homepage to launch

As part of its efforts to keep pace with a media-rich world, the U of C is preparing to launch a test version of its redesigned homepage Monday, which will be refined until the new website officially replaces the current site in April. During the interim period, both sites will be available. [See Correction]

“The University’s web page has served us very well, but it has remained substantially unchanged since 1999,” said Julie Peterson, vice president for communications. “There has been a lot of interest across the University in revising and updating the page in order to better convey the range of extraordinary activity that is taking place here.”

The new site displays a more visually stimulating format that will be easier to see on smaller screens such as those on smartphones, Peterson said.

She added that the University’s web designers created the page with the University’s viewing demographics in mind and were looking to improve usability in the forthcoming design. In 2005, the University hired outside vendor Information Methodologies, Inc., to aid University web designers in the redesign process. The company compiled web traffic statistics on current website usage from surveys and interviews and evaluated traffic and search statistics from an older version of the website.

In the redesign process, the web designers targeted viewers outside the University community.

John Mohr, director of NSIT web services, said that the website is “an opportunity to put our best face forward and address an external audience.”

He said that a large part of this mission is storytelling—using text and multimedia content in order to bring the research and accomplishments of faculty, students, alumni, and staff to the forefront.

“The old site was ‘here’s the info, here’s facts,’” he said. One of the goals for the new site was to “give activity on campus a lot more context.”

The redesigned homepage highlights current faculty research projects as well as student activities, and features pictures and text. The web team hopes to change content often and include multimedia elements in the future. Mohr said that the new site was designed to be a multimedia tool more than just an online brochure. [See correction]

“We are taking advantage of improvements in technology with this redesign,” he said. “Monitors have a higher resolution, so there is effectively more screen real estate for news, events, and stories about the University. We will also be increasingly using multimedia to communicate about the University’s distinctive culture, accomplishments, and intellectual activity.”

While outside users were a major focus of the project, the site’s new design is also geared toward current students. A new search function includes a drop down menu of popular search topics, and links to campus events and academic programs are included on the main site.

Fourth-year Michael Atzmon happily noted that links to important information, like the course evaluations website, are easily available on the student page.

Until the new website officially launches in April, NSIT will be accepting feedback on the redesign and making changes as necessary.

Corrections

The February 12 news article "Redesigned Homepage to Launch" incorrectly stated that the University had pushed back the launch date for the beta version of its new site. The University launched the site on the scheduled date of February 18. The article also incorrectly stated that the homepage highlighted five faculty research projects in the main feature area. It highlighted three research projects and two students' activities.