We hit an important milestone in our website redevelopment this week, signing off on the design templates that will be used to build out the new Siena.edu. Those of us contributing to the project daily are excited to see the work of the past seven months begin to come to life.
The design of Siena.edu builds off what was learned in the Discovery process and outlined in the Creative Brief by providing aesthetic direction that is engaging, flexible and future-ready. The Fastspot team presented two distinct design options, and worked with us to adjust the selected version to best fit our needs and desires. The chosen concept was brought to the website steering committee for final feedback. Once these changes were incorporated, the templates that will serve as the foundation for the rest of the webpages were developed, and after several rounds of feedback and edits, approved.
The new design is introduced through a dynamic, responsive homepage that allows us to tell the Siena story in more powerful ways. Users are welcomed with a full screen, video montage that leverages our creative assets to dramatically showcase Siena’s distinctive value. The homepage is further divided into three customizable ‘blocks’: What Saints Do includes fresh content highlighting everything from research to study abroad to student life experiences, Can You Afford It? Yes You Can highlights the value of a Siena degree and financial aid, and What’s Happening on Campus pulls in the latest campus news and events as well as feature items from our popular admissions blog. The homepage maintains the most popular aspect of our current website – a program finder, presented just under the fold.
As different as the new homepage is in look and feel and the opportunity to present diverse content in inspiring ways, the biggest change may be what it doesn’t include. Our current home page has 159 navigational menu links – a dizzying display of what can happen when you try to predict where a visitor to your website may want to go. The new site tucks away its menu in a sandwich icon on the top right of the page. When clicking on this icon, a dropdown menu displays with five prominent links aimed at our primary audiences (prospective students and their influencers), along with secondary options that quickly get other frequent visitors where they need to go. The removal of more than 100 navigational choices is made possible through a ground-breaking search function that takes advantage of a flatter Information Architecture that allows the user to control their website experience in a familiar way.
The new design (and search functionality) also addresses our current two site structure (.edu page and community page). Internal audiences (students, faculty and staff) have easy access to a landing page that houses the operational resources necessary to efficiently performing our jobs. Content that lives elsewhere will be accessible to all audiences and should be thoughtfully developed to ensure the message is on brand and consistent in voice. A content strategy document is being prepared to assist page editors in this process.
Change isn’t easy. The Strategic Plan challenges us to transform our strategies and approach to better meet the demands of the marketplace, and to craft a compelling message that strengthens our brand by conveying the unique value of a Siena education. To do this effectively, our primary communications tool needs to exceed the expectations of our primary audience and drive them to act. We must move into an environment where user experience is at the forefront of our decision making process. The new website design gives us the opportunity to do all this and more.
As we transition into the development phases, the project remains on track for a June 1, 2018 launch.
Stay tuned to the Daily Digest for an upcoming community presentation that will provide a sneak peek of the new design.