As I hit “publish” on the final blog, check it off of my to-do list, I sigh with relief and excitement knowing that in just a handful of days Miller Center will transition from a tired website to a contemporary, organized, user-focused web interface.
This isn’t my first rodeo rebuilding websites from the ground up, fortunately, having previously managed local government websites for the tenth-largest city in the U.S. As the trope goes, government websites are some of the worst on the web, riddled with legal verbiage, acronyms, broken links, unreadable scanned PDFs,… The list goes on. How can organizations focused on serving residents be so awful at communicating with them? As luck would have it, understanding and undertaking multiple government website redesigns would prove to be a valuable asset for me down the road.
Analyze. Discover. Re-Think.
A complete redesign is a massive project that can take months (sometimes years). They take up huge amounts of resources and if not done strategically, can be rife with pitfalls. Creating a clear organizational structure for our content was a top priority, along with a design refresh, of course (more on that later). Employing data-driven tools to gauge our user activity was our first step to understand our stakeholder needs. Our desire for more organized content forced us to think strategically through a user-focused analytic process, and what better place to draw experience from than the process used to redesign government websites whose sole purpose is to prioritize resident communication.
What do we want? Easy to find content! When do we want it? Now!
Through the use of specialized tools and outreach strategies, we were able to see in real-time where users visited most and their thought process by:
- tracking mouse clicks over a period of months
- analyzing years of page analytics
- assessing call to action success rates
- holding live usability tests
- launching surveys
- performing card sorting activities
- analyzing user process maps
This gave us deep and invaluable insight into our visitors’ wants and needs. Oftentimes they’d been led astray from the content they aimed to find on our site by misleading links and redundancies. The goal of having users find the appropriate information within one or two clicks is the gold standard of good design and drove much of our organizational content structure, aesthetic, and calls-to-actions.
Step 4: Mix All Ingredients Together.
Having worked with a local design firm to help establish the look and feel, we came up with a contemporary design that will last for years to come while amplifying our mission and vision.
Some notable features include:
- Santa Clara University Center of Distinction is prioritized throughout the site
- Our bold color palette blocks sections of content
- Content is written in a straightforward manner that allows for better legibility and translation
- Users are presented with multiple pathways to self identify with content relevant to them
- Accessibility features have been implemented to promote user equity
- We’ve reduced our page count from over 90 to fewer than 30 pages of specific content, increasing the rate of searchability
- Our newsroom is segmented by intuitive categories of blogs, published research, and resources for our original content. Once buried, now it’s a cornerstone of our website content.
- Use of proper heading and content tags helps with SEO and ADA readability
- Our students’ accomplishments and action research is housed in an easy to use page with individual projects highlighting all of their hard work
- Pages and articles now dynamically load related content that allows cross-promotion of content and initiatives
Our makeover has been a passionate effort over several months with contributions from design, program, marketing, and sales teams. We poured a lot of heart into it. We hope you love it as much as we do. Let us know what you think of the new site and take our quick survey.