In the past five months, the EWU Digital Communications Team has made significant progress toward launching the first stage of EWU's new website in August.
“We spent a considerable amount of time trying to understand the needs of Admissions and Academic Affairs,” said Sam Buzby, manager of digital communications, “as well as polling current and prospective students, and employees. People must be sick of us by now! But the results will speak for themselves.”
Buzby’s team is combining industry best practices with stakeholder and end-user feedback to help inform their approach in redesigning Eastern’s website as part of the EWU Digital Initiative. The initiative’s primary goal is to put the needs of students first. The team has focused on three main goals: maximizing usability, enhancing storytelling and continuously improving the site.
Although the primary focus in the first rollout is admissions, some departments within Eastern have taken advantage of the team’s redesign-ready proposal – they’ve switched over to WordPress from the previous Ingeniux CMS in order to understand and get used to the new platform.
“You may have noticed that some departments and programs have taken initiative and already moved to WordPress, which will make their transition smoother in the long run,” said Buzby. “We’re not quite ready for programs of study to make this leap, but it’s a good idea to begin dabbling now, if possible.” Learn more about getting started with WordPress.
Enhancing Storytelling: Content is King
Since defining the site goals based on stakeholder and user feedback, the team continues to focus on storytelling.
“The primary function of the site is to tell the story of EWU, to reflect on our amazing culture, and provide each audience with information,” said Scott Eubanks, content strategist. “We’re going to be audience driven. Clarity, concision and common sense won’t hurt, either.”
The team has been developing new processes for evaluating website copy, as well as creating new digital content guidelines and editorial standards for web. The team continues to research best practices for readability and accessibility, and has started sifting through content for the current phase of the redesign.
“Everything we do, including the copy, is data driven. While there is a visceral, artistic element to how we write about EWU, we need to remain cognizant of its readability and relevance. Currently, we’re benchmarking readability stats on the site,” said Eubanks. “Once the rollout is complete, we will continue to iterate with our partners across campus for improvement.”
Maximizing Usability: Design Sneak Peek
As new findings emerge in the data and feedback collected, the website’s layout and design have evolved from a previous version shown in December. The team has reviewed and evaluated more than 100 competitor institution sites, and has researched current trends and best practices from industry leaders.
“My hope is to design a fresh, functional website that logically directs students, faculty and staff toward the information they need," said Maggie Dority, the team's web designer. "In order to accomplish this, I'm implementing a more minimalist approach using white space, clean lines, and images that help to showcase the Eastern experience. It’s exciting to be part of such a collaborative process, and the feedback we've received has really helped inform the design.”
View a sneak peek of the near-final design below. (Please note that, just as before, this is an iterative process, and the team will continue to make changes as necessary.)
Rather than a giant sliding carousel, the main stage area now features an inviting message with ambient video that makes a powerful first impression of campus.
The "persona bar" at the top allows different audiences a quick, elegant method of bypassing content from any page to get directly where they need to go from ewu.edu. The "mega menu" gives the impression of a more traditional header drop-down menu, with the added flexibility to change messaging and structure as needed.