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INSIDE BINGHAMTON UNIVERSITY

Web redesign project moving forward

By this fall, visitors to the University’s Web site will start to see redesigned pages.
The pages will be a significant upgrade from the University’s current site. But the design is actually the final stage of a comprehensive program to enhance Binghamton’s Web presence and operational system.


“It is not unlike doing a major renovation of a large building,” said Chris Ritter, associate vice president of communications and marketing. “What you see at the end is a terrific-looking building. But what you don’t see is the work that needed to be done to upgrade all of the systems that will sustain it.”


The goals for the Web enhancement program are to position the University as a “premier public,” to make the site more user-friendly for visitors and to make it simpler for the campus to manage content on the Web.


The first phase of the “site migration” part of the Web project will begin in July, said Drew Hill, Web director.


One important aspect of the Web project is the introduction of a content management system, or CMS. It’s designed to give the people closest to the content more control of their pages.


“A content management system will allow anyone with training to click on a link on their page, log on and edit the content,” Hill explained. “It levels the playing field in terms of technological haves and have-nots. It allows non-technical people to edit pages. If you can use a program like Microsoft Word, you should be able to edit your Web page with the CMS.”


Hill said most people will have more control over the content of their pages and somewhat less control over design. He said this change is essential as the University tries to present a professional picture to the world. Consider a book, Hill said: The chapters may contain different topics but have a consistent voice with the same font, headers and footers.


“We’re such a diverse community, and that will always be reflected in our Web space,” Hill said. “However, right now we’re too fractured. We need more unity to enable our Web visitors to navigate more easily and to experience a Web presence that reflects our excellence as a university.”


Beginning this month, the new content management system will be applied to existing Web sites separately from the redesign project.


“This truly was a need that needed to be satisfied,” said Hill, who noted the University’s advocacy site (at think.binghamton.edu) will go first.


Eventually, the CMS will be applied to all pages in concert with the redesign.

Templates will be integrated so University sites will have a degree of individuality without sacrificing coherency. Hill expects templates to be available in June, with some offices getting training on the CMS as early as July.


Additional workshops will be offered later on topics including writing for the Web and integrating media such as photographs and video into Web pages.


Three preliminary home page designs are undergoing testing this month with prospective undergraduate and graduate students as well as faculty, staff and industry partners. Once the testing is done and a design direction is chosen, samples will be available. Additional user testing will occur as prototype pages are ready.


The University’s Web strategy, a plan for how Binghamton will use the Web, will soon be released. It’s backed by research conducted by mStoner, a nationally recognized consulting firm with expertise in Web design for colleges and universities.


Before the more visible work on the Web project began, several other tasks were completed. Hill said these included an assessment of the current site, identification of campus Web needs and priorities, a technological audit of the systems in use, selection of a content management system, bidding to select a Web consultant, research and strategy development, reworking of the Web architecture/navigation, interaction design, graphic design and interface and usability testing with key audiences.


Hill expects the project will be substantially complete within two years, though the nature of the Web means that there will be a continuous updating as new technologies become available.


For More Details
Learn more about the ongoing Web redesign project at Drew Hill’s blog: http://blogs.binghamton.edu/index.php/webproject.

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Last Updated: 10/14/08