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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 »

WDN Design Survey has Launched

March 30th, 2009 by smeranda

This morning, the WDN design survey invitation delivery process began. This process involves sending a short email message to our target audiences (prospective students, faculty/staff, current students, alums, parents, extension, etc…) with a link to our online tool to gather responses. When all is said and done, around 90,000 audience members will have received an invitation to participate.

The survey consists of two major sections:

  1. The first section is used to test the look and feel of three possible design candidates for the Fall 2009 redesign. It asks users to submit a rating based on a 2 second analysis. Then an opportunity to spend more time with each design and provide comments and qualitative data is available.
  2. The second section is designed to gather a more generic internet usage blueprint. Questions are arranged based on experiences on unl.edu and experiences online in general. This is a survey we would like to administer on a regular basis and use the results to determine shifts in audience preferences over time.

Over the coming months, we will be sharing the analysis of both sections of the survey. This blog, upcoming WDN and WAG meetings will be used as avenues for dispersing these results.

Google Analytics Presentation

March 26th, 2009 by smeranda

Google Analytics PresentationThis afternoon, I will be giving a introductory presentation/training opportunity on using Google Analytics. As you might recall, a few weeks ago I asked various groups to respond to a survey outlining their use of Google Analytics (if any) and to indicate areas where they would like more information. I have reviewed these responses and I am using them to put together today’s presentation.

If you are unable to make it to this afternoon’s presentation, feel free to download the slidedeck.

Though the presentation will focus on a some of the major features, hundreds of intermediate to advanced uses exist. If I don’t cover an area today, raise your hand and ask about it. Or leave a comment on this blog with a question. Or shoot me an email.

Helpful links from today’s presentation:

Media Hub Is Open For Business

March 25th, 2009 by bbieber

Media Hub ManagerSummaryMedia Hub allows UNL web developers to create Podcasts and/or Vodcasts without editing XML, easily embed a flash player on their websites, and allow multiple users to manage the content on those feeds. To get started, log in at http://www1.unl.edu/mediahub/manager/ with your my.UNL Username and Password and add your media.

Here’s a sample feed created for the Nebraska Colloquium

Users can subscribe to the podcast feed and each piece of media has an individual page where UNL Faculty/Staff and Students can submit comments on the video. Additionally, developers and end-users can copy and paste the embed code so a video can easily be embedded on their own sites.

Once a feed is in the system, if you’d like it added to our iTunes U site just let me know.

Format guidelines:

Video: please use h264 encoding at 640×480 for standard definition and 640×360 for high definition.

Audio: use mp3 format for files under 32MB. More information is available in the wiki page on podcasting.

Thanks to Seth Meranda in University Communications and Todd Jensen, Tim Steiner, and Micah Sutton in the New Media Center.

If you’re interested in contributing to the project GForge is the place to start.

http://its-gforge.unl.edu/gf/project/unl_mediayak/

Design Candidates are Coming In

October 20th, 2008 by smeranda

We are now at the stage of harvesting initial design candidates for consideration as the beginning of the visual refreshining. Two months ago, designers and developers were invited to mock up new a visual representation of the UNL template. Since that time, many designers have accepted the invitation and began crafting the initial stages of their proposed designs. Some of these designers have shared their first designs by posting online for critiques.

Tomorrow, during a 2:00 meeting in the Nebraska Union (in which everyone is welcome to attend), the Web Developer Network will review these design candidates. The purpose of this meeting is to not decide a final design, but rather review the multiple possible directions each designer has taken his/her design. Then like-minded users will be grouped together to extend and integrate their designs to produce one final rough draft candidate. In an ideal situation, only a few breakout groups will be created.

While the final design is still months away from completion, many elements and directions are starting to form. Large questions — such as horizontal v. vertical navigation, prominence of search box(es), functionality of calendar feeds, file organization — are being discussed. If you have any input on these considerations or others, please plan to attend these meetings or leave a comment on this below.

2009 Visual Redesign Process has Begun

September 3rd, 2008 by smeranda

As outlined in the August 12 Web Developer Network meeting, the process for visual redesign/realignment of unl.edu has begun.

As we begin this process, many areas of the overall site template will be reevaluated. Therefore, this is the first opportunity for feedback.

Every web designer/developer is invited to participate in the process. Our next meeting will be in September and then again in October.