At OUTC16, Sylvia Nicosia, Director of Web Programming and Development at Farmingdale State College, gave a detailed presentation on her institution’s most recent website redesign. Using analytics and qualitative data, Nicosia and her team developed a simple, yet powerful design where information architecture meets the expectations of their site visitors. Read on to learn about their journey to a successful website redesign.
Measuring for Success
Nicosia’s team started with Google Analytics to analyze different segments of the website. First, they filtered IP addresses to see how internal and external site visitors were looking at content. Then they looked at what devices visitors used. They also evaluated landing pages with high bounce rates, as well as search queries to see how visitors sought out content.
The team reviewed over 3,000 contact form inquiries to develop subcategories. These subcategories gave them an idea as to what content to group on each landing page. For example, they learned that prospective students were expecting to find information on the Admissions page that was actually on the Students Account page.
Putting It All Together
Pairing the form inquiries and Google Analytics data, Nicosia and her team moved forward with a responsive website layout using Bootstrap that followed three main goals:
- Concentrate on a simple design that works as intended and looks nice
- Provide site visitors, no matter where they are on the website, with the desired information within one to two clicks
- Provide site visitors with the necessary tools to navigate and find information to accomplish the second goal
For the global navigation, the team grouped the landing pages based on how site visitors expected to find information. They used Google Analytics to select the top 15 most popular links for each global navigation dropdown menu.
For the landing pages, they grouped the next 35 most popular links into categories based on the contact form data. Some of the landing pages contained information that didn’t necessarily fall within a certain category, but that is where students expected to find that information.
Other elements placed within the layout included:
- Secondary navigation listing the top links along with a search box
- Footer containing important institution information and calls to action
- FAQ page answering repetitive questions from the contact form data
- A-Z links with a dynamic search
Preparing for Launch
Leading up to the website launch, Nicosia provided constant communication about the redesign with the entire campus through emails, newsletters, and workshops. Content contributors were required to get training on the latest version of OU Campus, and she and her team also hosted two workshops where students, faculty, and staff were encouraged to bring laptops along with other mobile devices to test the redesign and give feedback. That feedback was applied before each department’s dean and chairs tested their prospective landing page.
The new site launched in June 2015, and in just four months post-launch, admission inquiries plunged by 22% and general information inquiries dropped 14%. Nicosia and her team took these results as a sign that site visitors were finding what they needed and the team was headed in the right direction for any future content placement.
For more information about Nicosia’s experience with website redesign, check out the Higher Ed Live episode, End the Website Debate Using Data and User Testing.
Stay tuned for Nicosia’s suggested guidelines for a successful website redesign!