Higher Ed Web Redesign, Part 2: Unbundling Our Internal Structure

In my previous post, I noted that the next steps were to focus on the content audit and Drupal training–at least until the design/page templates were complete–and here we are. Three months later…

(That’s not to imply that it took that long for those elements to be completed, just that…well, I’ve taken a long time to circle back on the process here).

The designs are mostly finished, as is the content audit.  We held focus groups with the content editors, which provided context, insight, and gave voice to the challenges they face in addition to supplying content. We’ve now moved into more departmental meetings, which are useful to chat one-on-one. It’s a chance to build rapport as well as delve into the business side of the website.

Ah, the business side.

Originally, we had planned to reduce the amount of *current student information* as it’s termed from the public facing site to keep it much more transactional and pare down the content. However, our internal student portal (SharePoint) won’t be ready and/or able to withstand taking on that load of information (nor do the departments or ITS have the ability to train/learn/prep for such a switch) for a few months to a year+. Which means that we need to look to other solutions, and design IA with an eye to the future. One particular part of the website affected by this is Cost & Financial Aid.

To give a little background on this: our current site is, like so many, built around our internal structure. Financial Aid is over here, but Business Office is over there. Meanwhile, a student simply sees $$$$$$ without a need to differentiate. In an attempt to remedy this, we’re bundling Business Office and Financial Aid into…ta da, Cost & Financial Aid. I argued for a second about grouping them under Admissions to boot (as many schools do), but since cost is one of our value propositions (pun intended), it does belong as a main nav item.

Preliminary meetings with both departments have boded well. In addition to looking at those offices, we’re also taking a different approach to our entering student pathway. Preliminary research shows massive losses through the application – assessment – orientation – registration process, and we want to help remedy that by first clarifying the process for students by profile (first time enrollee, transfer, PSEO, etc). Then, we’ll provide them with the specific information which applies to them.

Sounds obvious, right? Welp, in our current structure, it’s not so clean. Assessment and Orientation have their own pages with a lot of *stuff* through which visitors need to wade. We’ve tried to help the content owners whittle it down by building guidelines around two things;

  • What does a visitor to this page need to know?
  • What does a visitor to this page need to do?

Parcel it out by the type of student they are, and *wham bam* we’ve got something here.

So that’s what’s up right now. We’re using GatherContent to replicate the future site structure and make sure that everything works–more on that later–and we’ll do a few Drupal Bootcamps over the summer/early fall. As it stands, we’re looking good to hit October 1. *knocks on wood with both hands*

Up next: Feedback Exhibitions!

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