University News

After years, U. website gets facelift

By
News Editor
Wednesday, September 8, 2010

After months of planning and interface-tweaking, the University unveiled its revamped website Tuesday afternoon, culminating a redesign project that began in 2008. The new site — a collaborative effort between the Office of Public Affairs and University Relations and Computer Information Services —  features a more accessible home page that supports multimedia and can interface directly with social networking sites.

The website went live at 2:30 p.m., replacing an old platform that had been in place since 2006, said Vice President for Public Affairs and University Relations Marisa Quinn, who led the redesign team. In addition to increased graphical content and more navigable links from the home page, the site also requires less staff to maintain, she said. The website will feature updated department sites, an improved admission page and a revised research site, which will launch in the coming months.

The new site “showcases the University,” Quinn said, adding that the improved functionality means the site can generate more content while decreasing upkeep.

In order to engage the community during the redesign project, designers and administrators distributed online surveys and publicized decisions on a redesign blog. The final design merged the “positive elements” of the top two concepts determined by over 1,800 participants who chose between three designs, Quinn said. The redesign team held “extensive focus groups” to develop recommendations for improving the site’s functionality.

The public affairs office and CIS collaborated with mStoner, Inc. — a public relations firm that specializes in nonprofits — to come up with a modernized, accessible site that more effectively represents the multimedia age, Quinn said. The University solicited information and proposals from potential consulting firms last fall, choosing mStoner from a field of 10 companies because it had experience working with higher education, Quinn said.

Though the University used mStoner to help generate ideas for the new platform, CIS ultimately built the site, allowing the University to maintain the interface internally without relying on outside input if the site ever encounters problems, she said. The creative team that worked on the redesign spent the immediate time before the launch ironing out “bugs and kinks,” she said, allowing the site to go up without any noticeable malfunctions.

Quinn said the response she has received so far has been positive, though she anticipates getting more feedback at next week’s Brown University Community Council meeting.

As for publicizing the updated site, the University plans to use its own social networking tools to announce the change and attract constructive comments.

“We will certainly be letting people know via Facebook and Twitter,” she said.

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