In this blog post we have used the recent redesign of the New Students website as a case study, to demonstrate some of the considerations and processes involved in redesigning a part of the University website.
Map what we have
Before initiating the redesign we created a site map in order to get a feel for the site and how its pages related to each other.
We then conducted a complete content review with the help of Google Analytics, which showed us how many views each page received and when, as well as average times spent on pages and the device they were viewed on. The aim was to streamline the content for a responsive site and get rid of any dated or unnecessary content.
Plan the project
We set objectives for the site, and established a set of user tasks – the things a user will come to the website to accomplish.
- Example objective: To help students know who to contact if they have a problem, so less time is spent redirecting queries.
- Example user task: “As a new student, I want to know what I need to do before freshers’ week starts, so I am prepared to start university.”
We also created some personas – imagined examples (based on focus group findings) of realistic students who might use the site, and the kinds of concerns and priorities they have. This informed the way we wrote new content and put the site together.
For the New Students site, we decided to concentrate on drafting all of the content before we thought about how it would look on the site. We used a card-sorting technique to group different pieces of information together in a way that would make the most sense to someone looking at the site for the first time.
Once we had all the content ready, we were able to think about how to position it on the page and how the different pages in the site should relate to one another.
The home page was the last part of the site to be designed, and changed a lot from our initial ideas thanks to feedback from user testing.
With all of our sites, the primary focus is on who is going to be using the site and what they will use it for. We gathered this information through a mixture of analytics and talking to users in interviews and focus groups, and used our findings to create user stories.
When we had drafted a version of the site, we undertook usability testing: one-to-one sessions in which we observed a student navigating around the site, to see whether it worked in the way they expected, and tested how easy it was for them to accomplish the user tasks.
Some of the key changes we made after user testing were:
- Reducing the amount of information on the home page.
- Making Freshers’ Week information more prominent on the home page.
- Removing an ‘International students’ feature box from the home page, as information throughout the site applies to international students, so this was seen as confusing.
- Adding links between pages: for example, students can now click an in-page link button in the ‘When you Arrive’ page that takes them straight to Freshers’ Week information.
As well as meeting our objectives, the final product has helped the user complete the primary tasks of the site more efficiently and with less effort. We will continue to check that the site is working with more testing, asking for feedback and by regularly reviewing the analytics.
Visit the New Students site
Frank Zirger and Lucy Corley
Web and Digital Communications Assistants (GBP)