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UNL.edu and You

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UNL.edu 2009 Redevelopment Rollout Presentation

May 28th, 2009 by Bob Crisler

For much of the past three weeks, we in the UNL Web Developer Network and in University Communications Internet and Interactive Media have been on a UNL.edu 2009 Rollout Tour, giving presentations to and having discussions with campus groups in preparation for transitioning UNL websites to the new 2009 template, slated for release in August 2009.

As these things go, though, not everyone who is interested in the subject can show up to a given meeting, and a number of university faculty, staff and students are simply out of town for the summer. So I’ve made the presentation available here as an MP4 video (complete with stammering narration). Thanks for your interest, and I look forward to your continuing engagement in the development of UNL.edu.

4000 People Thinking: The UNL.edu and You Survey

May 28th, 2009 by Bob Crisler

In early spring of 2009, while sitting among boxes in UComm Internet and Interactive Media’s temporary storage-closet location while our new offices here at Wick were being completed, Seth Meranda and I began formulating a comprehensive survey of our website’s audiences. The survey was intended, as a first priority, to solicit feedback for the in-progress UNL.edu site redevelopment process, based on our 2006 survey instrument. At the same time, we’d ask the users who’d completed what we called the “Design Survey” to continue on to a longer survey to take the UNL.edu audience’s temperature on media use, preferences, etc., as related to use of the web generally and of UNL.edu in particular.

The “Design Survey” and “UNL.edu and You” were programmed to move seamlessly from an internally-developed instrument to the LimeSurvey-based UNL.edu and You (thanks, Brett); users simply kept clicking through. The significant interest in the redesign process translated to a strong response to UNL.edu and You that we may not have been able to attract otherwise; nearly 4,000 people ended up completing both surveys.

Surveys of this type are not a “vote;” they’re an opportunity for users to provide input to, and influence, a group of professionals from across campus whose expertise lies in communication, visual design and user interface and interaction design. The survey was intended to provide focus to the final ‘leg’ of the journey from 50 designs to one … the distillation of best elements from three designs to one design over the span of a single month.

Qualitative results, especially, had to be interpreted, as there are almost as many conflicting opinions as there are opinions. It was the first order of business for the final design team to identify broad themes in the qualitative responses.

It was the job of the design committee to discuss, argue and implement (yes, in some cases also reject) those opinions. Whether or not a UNL.edu and You respondent sees a specific response to their issue in the final design, the feedback led to spirited debate and discussion that in all cases improved the final product. If you took the time and effort to provide feedback to us, thank you.

Design Quantitative
Design Qualitative
UNL.edu and You

Introducing the Future Design of UNL.edu

May 19th, 2009 by smeranda

On May 12, the final result of the design team was presented to the Web Developers Network. The design, a visual realignment, will become the new template and interface for UNL.edu beginning August 17. For details on how the design came to be, take a look at Aaron’s explanation of the process, and my explanation of the research.

Let’s See the New Template!

The visual design of the 2009 UNL.edu template in the default state.

The visual design of the 2009 UNL.edu template in the default state.

From the Top

  • In the top left corner is the “N,” roughly the same size as in our current design. However, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln title is much larger and more prominent.
  • In the upper right corner is a much larger search box. We have also removed the option to select the type of search to handle, and will replace with a results page that incorporates search results from unl.edu, peoplefinder and the local site. The idea is to create one simple interface element to use when searching the site.
  • Immediately below the search box is a row of icons. The muted-in-color icons serve as links to site-wide resources (in order): RSS Links, current weather, the event calendar, peoplefinder and the public webcams. When the mouse rolls over these icons, they will be presented in color with little help “balloons” describing each element. Clicking on these will bring available the selected resource.
  • Perhaps the largest advancement from our current site is the display of the navigation. The new design brings together the multiple navigation schemes present on any page and places them in a single, efficient and compartmentalized section. More on the functionality of the navigation below.
  • Below the navigation, is a full-width, four-column content section. This area is reserved for the most important elements of the page, and is available to the developers to present in the fashion their users most need. Content area resources will be available for developers.
  • The last section of the page is an extended footer. This is reserved for site-wide content that can be found on every page (related links, promotional items, contact information, etc…)

Read the rest of this entry »

All Paths Lead Forward

May 14th, 2009 by smeranda

As the User Experience Architect, part of my role is exploring in depth our users’ web site habits, their likes, their dislikes and their usage requirements. Many primary and secondary research methods are constantly used to gather as much knowledge pertaining to our users as possible. This helps inform directions and requirements when creating online interactions. It’s really a fun and dynamic experience.

As a reader of this blog, you are aware that the Web Developers Network is in the process of realigning UNL.edu with a face lift. Aaron has explained much of the process in his previous post, and I won’t rehash his descriptions. Instead, I’d like to take you on a journey of how the knowledge gained from the research went into the future design. Read the rest of this entry »

Achieving a New Balance

May 14th, 2009 by Bob Crisler

In thinking about the broad aspects of user interaction design that form the bulk of our task in re-envisioning an effective web template for the university, we first need to focus on what it is we’re trying to accomplish.

Boiled down, the job of the web template is to assist the user in locating content while maintaining strong university identity. The navigational framework of a site, any site, is a supporting player. It has to be the best supporting player we can imagine, but in the end it should slip into the wings, and let the spotlight shine brightly on what the web user came to the site to see, to read, to experience: the content.

The case for horizontal/hidden navigation Read the rest of this entry »

The UNL Template Design Process

May 13th, 2009 by acoleman

Although smaller revisions and updates never truly stop (there have been over 70 template updates of varying sizes since 2006), every three years the University of Nebraska-Lincoln goes through the process of giving the website a large face lift. The incredibly fast-paced transformation of the web and the fact that our web presence is the only medium that anyone on the planet can reach in one click demands that we both stay abreast of current trends and try to set new ones. As mentioned above, we largely consider our website to be in constant beta mode, but these large overhauls allow us the chance to try to put ourselves one step ahead of the competition while setting the stage for the future.

The process as a whole actually started clear back in September of 2008, as detailed in this post. At that time, developers across campus worked on photoshop file mock-ups of their proposed look and approximately 40 different looks were submitted. At a well-attended WDN meeting, we then ran voting that took into account both “gut response” (2 seconds viewing time) and more detailed comments for each design. After tabulating that data, 7 different designs stood apart from the rest. Click on the thumbnails below to see each of the beginning phase designs in full size.

07 look 09 look 11 look 14 look 15 look 17 look 18 look

These 7 designs were then pulled together into 3 different groups that incorporated similar ideas. Designers and other interested developers worked to further refine the ideas presented within each and ended up with the final designs that were voted on by different constituent groups in the WDN Design Survey. Needless to say, each design changed considerably from where it started. Again, click on the thumbnails below to see the design in full size.

Group A Design Group B Design Group C Design

The resulting feedback from the WDN Design Survey was incredible. We received over 8000 full responses, providing us not only quantitative data to go on, but qualitative responses to help guide us as well.

Based on survey data, designers from each group (another special thanks to Joel Brehm, Jeff Nothwehr, Seth Meranda, Christy Aggens, Vishal Singh, Aaron Coleman, and Mark Hiatt) took the Group B design as a visual starting point and moved forward with not only a visual freshening in mind, but also a charge of making more sense of the multiple navigation systems that were being used on the old site and hierarchy of the page elements as a whole. Ideas and components were combined, refined, labored-over, respectfully disagreed with, and generally massaged for several weeks until we finally arrived at where we now stand; a look that will now be coded into the next generation of University of Nebraska-Lincoln web templates.

new template look

As mentioned above, this process certainly isn’t complete. The visual design has been worked out, but now we move onto the coding phase, and your help is needed.

We’ve made a PDF of the WDN template presentation (13mb) available for download.

Webometrics? (What is the Meaning of This?)

May 8th, 2009 by Bob Crisler

Every once in a while someone conjures up a new word … sometimes there’s even a new idea to accompany it. In the last ten or so years, a lot of those new words have been old words onto which the word “web” has been grafted. So it is that the term “webometrics” came into my email stream this morning. (As “web” words go, not too bad; not nearly as nauseous as “webinar.”)

Web sites are the tip of the spear these days in competition among universities. We often think of our site as a marketing vehicle, but it’s so much more than that. It’s a trove of scholarly output, a resource for professional journals and research publications, a lens into our planning and decisionmaking processes as a university. More and more, our website, taken as a whole, is a full and rich version of what we are as a university; our people, our activities and our ideas. More and more, it is the view through which others see us. For many who will never set foot in Lincoln, it may be the only view of us they have.

That’s what I’m thinking about as I scan through a new report on university “Webometrics,” passed along by friend Rebecca Carr, national coordinator of the AAU Data Exchange.*

“The “Webometrics Ranking of World Universities” is an initiative of the Cybermetrics Lab, a research group belonging to the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), the largest public research body in Spain,” says the opening page of the “webometrics” report. To paraphrase the “about” of the report, it is an attempt to rank the scholarly activity of any given university as revealed through its online presence.

So how did we do?

In the report, we’re number 67. Which if you’re a college basketball fan is good enough for a trip to the NIT. At first blush, not the greatest. But (big but) … the survey lists SIX THOUSAND institutions in its listing of Top Universities, out of 15,000 institutions analyzed. I’m feeling pretty good about that number 67 now. Read the rest of this entry »