Countdown to new sru.edu begins
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Visitors to Slippery Rock University's website will soon see something very different.
A new and improved sru.edu, the first major redesign and architectural restructuring for the University website since 2008, is expected to debut in June.
The new website is designed to better meet the needs of potential students and visitors, make important information easier to find and focus on telling the University story.
The site features a fluid and concise navigation, a custom search engine (powered by Google) and a mobile friendly, responsive design that dramatically improves the experience for users on standard smartphones, tablets, phablets and other small computing devices.
The website also adheres to the Americans with Disabilities Act 508 compliance standards as it applies to Web, improving the experience and accessibility of content for people with disabilities.
In planning and developing the new site, members of the Website redesign team sought feedback from students, faculty, staff, prospective students and their parents, alumni and others. They also analyzed data about how visitors use the website and conducted user experience testing to fine-tune content, features, and functions.
"This has been a massive project," said Darcy White, director of Web communication and development.
White led a team that included significant contributions from Kevin McCarthy, senior business intelligence analyst; Nicholas McIntire, director of advancement services; Kayla Hersperger, enrollment services online design and communication specialist; Claudia Fischer, executive staff assistant for student affairs; Henry Magusiak, director of information and administrative technology services, and a plethora of content contributors that included SRU faculty, staff and students.
One thing White wants to emphasize is that this was a complete web development project, not simply putting a new "skin" on an old format.
"This project is much more than a simple redesign. We disassembled the entire structure of the sru.edu website from front to back, implemented an entirely new Web Content Management System, Ingeniux CMS 9, and adjusted the look and feel in a responsive approach to be in line with modern technological and design trends while keeping in compliance with Web standards." White said.
As part of the process:
- The project was heavily researched, with full-scale discovery sessions with audiences and content persons from all segments of the campus.
- More than 40,000 assets from the current SharePoint environment and more than 250,000 files/documents/HTML files from FrontPage servers were assessed to determine usage and effectiveness relative to SRU's Web content strategy for the new website.
- Information design and wireframes were developed and utilized to map out all functions in the creation of multiple Web templates and functional components for the sru.edu website.
- Four full design comps, including homepage and level designs, were developed and submitted for review to better assess SRUs needs and preferences regarding the mobile friendly, responsive design.
- All coding and design was done to meet ADA Section 508 compliance (as it applies to Web), search engine optimization, and current Web standards.
- Web Communications manually migrated more than 1,000 pages of content to assure all items met ADA and SEO requirements.
- IATS procured external "in the cloud" hosting through Ingeniux to provide better redundancy, uptime and business continuity.
- BarkleyREI, the University's partner in the development project, wrote copy for close to 200 pages. All copy in the CMS was reviewed to address basic functional issues and hit compliance goals.
"We're going to have a great outward facing site that we believe will be attractive to visitors and quickly help them get to the information they need to complete their business," White said. "Since prospective students are our primary audience, we paid special attention to what they told us they needed and wanted on the site."
As the countdown to launch begins, White said he and his student Web developers are busy with content migration from the old system to the new, selecting and digitizing images to maximize their effectiveness on the Web, reviewing each page to ensure its compliance with University style and standards and ADA 508 compliance, and finalizing new features such as a robust new calendar for University events.
Web Communication and Development is essentially a one-man show at SRU with White as the only full-time professional staff. He's quick to point out that this project couldn't have been completed without the help of student Web developers. "Without a doubt, throughout this entire project, my student workers have been incredible. The depth of their knowledge and their ability to apply concepts they've learned in their academic programs to real-time challenges, speaks to the quality of SRU's programs," he said.
While White said he's looking forward to the launch, he knows there is still an incredible amount of work ahead. Not the least of which is the need to train content developers and those individuals in departments charged with maintaining their page's content. White said he would be offering training sessions shortly after the launch and throughout the year.
The team will continue to analyze, improve and adjust the website after launch, specifically making changes aimed at improving the overall user experience, achieving University goals and further improving content.
"This overhaul of sru.edu is really the first gigantic step for a better Slippery Rock University Web presence. Everything doesn't come to conclusion with this project alone. The Internet is a constantly changing ephemeral creature that adapts to societal, cultural and technological changes. Our website, sru.edu, is about to be in a competitive position in the world of Web. It will require maintenance and commitment moving forward," White said.
Karl E. Schwab