Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The NEW site: Comments and updates

After about 10 months of planning, testing and programming, the first phase of the redesign of the Website was launched on Feb. 5. Thanks to everyone who has offered comments, spotted missing links and asked questions about the site. We have attempted to address all your concerns and the site is better for it.

Overall, the comments we received from faculty, staff, students, parents and alumni have been overwhelmingly positive. “Rockin” was the way one alum described the new site, while others used words like “outstanding,” “excellent,” “fabulous.” Visitors liked the variety of photography, the color scheme chosen and the clean and simple design and improved architecture. The home page features that showcase student activities and life on campus were especially well received.

Thanks! It makes those late nights worthwhile.

Of course, we also heard some complaints and lots of questions about where to find things. Our team will be working to address some of those including missing links, a request for more video and a bigger campus map. We’ve put together a FAQ that may answer some common questions. You can get the FAQ here.

We also are pleased to announce the hiring of UNC Asheville’s first full-time Webmaster, who will work with staff in Communications and ITS to keep the site fully functional and current. Luke Withrow has been an active member of our Web redesign committee and has worked at UNC Asheville since 2006 as a Technology Support Analyst. His knowledge of Web programming, our university community and his enthusiasm for using the Web in our communication efforts will be a huge benefit to the campus.

One of Luke’s primary responsibilities will be offering training and support for the new Content Management System (Drupal) during Phase 2 of the site redesign, which is now beginning.

Phase 2 will include converting the academic department sites and other sub-sites to the new templates. We are working with Provost Jane Fernandes to ensure that academic department sites will include complete and consistent information, which is particularly important as the university begins its SACS reaccreditation process.

So what have we learned so far?
In general site traffic is up. We’re still collecting data, but let’s take the Admissions site as one example:
During the period from May 1, 2009 to Jan. 1, 2010, the Admissions site averaged 126 visitors per day.

On Feb. 1, 2010 (a few days prior to launch of the new site) Admissions received 168 visits.

On Launch Day, Feb. 5, the Admissions site logged 464 visits.

By Feb. 15 that number had doubled to 831, and has remained in the 700-800 visits per day range.
Admissions staff say email requests for information and signups for tours also have increased dramatically.

Stay tuned for more updates, and please continue to send us your comments and suggestions.

Friday, January 22, 2010

T-minus 14 days

UNC Asheville’s newly designed Web site is just two weeks away from launch.

With more than a hundred new pages, new content, vibrant new photos and a new navigation scheme, the goal of the redesign has been to capture the excitement and the unique character of the UNC Asheville community and share that excitement with millions of visitors who come to our university’s virtual front door.

For the next two weeks, the staffs in Information Technology Services, Communications and Admissions and others will continue to add content to “Phase One” of the new site, and conduct further testing in preparation for the go-live day - - Feb. 5.

In this first phase of the complete redesign, you’ll see a brand new home page, of course, but there’s a lot more under the hood. In addition to new server hardware and a new Content Management System to support the site, we’ve also developed new “gateway” pages for major areas of the site including “About,” “For Students,” “For Faculty and Staff,” “For the Community” and others.

The entire Admissions site has been redesigned with new photographs, new content and features that will allow prospective students to experience the campus, hear about the activities of current students, and even ask a current student what it’s like to attend UNC Asheville. Both on-campus and off-campus Web visitors will have many new opportunities to find news articles, features about campus life and listings of events. You can subscribe to news and events feeds via RSS and never miss out on upcoming activities.

The second phase of the project will continue throughout the Spring semester when we will be helping academic departments, centers and other offices migrate to the new templates and learn how to work with our new Content Management System. Yes, training classes will be offered to anyone who would like to use the CMS.

We know - - change is unsettling. It will take some time for us all to get used to the new organization, but we’ll making tweaks to the site based on your continued feedback. We are hopeful that the focus group testing of navigation schemes and efforts to follow best practices in the Web design field will have given us a better way to organize the site for ease of use.

As we have done throughout this project, we want your feedback, your ideas, your likes and your dislikes. It’s YOUR site after all, and we really appreciate your comments and ideas, which already have been incredibly useful.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Countdown to Site Launch

In just a few weeks UNC Asheville will launch a newly organized and designed Web site with a variety of new features and an exciting new look! The new site will feature a completely redesigned Homepage that will show the world what a vibrant educational community is to be found at UNC Asheville.

At the same time, the new site will offer more than 100 new pages of content, photos, videos, slideshows and other ways to help tell our story. The staff in Communications, ITS, Admissions, Development and Student Affairs will be making final changes to their pages within our site during January, and we anticipate a go-live launch on Feb. 5.

More pages of the site, including those representing academic departments, centers and others, will gradually be phased into the new templates during the Spring semester as soon as staff are trained to use the new Content Management System, called Drupal.

Stay tuned to this blog for further updates.

In the meantime, go ahead and make YOUR homepage on your browser so you can be sure to stay current on the latest news and activities from UNC Asheville.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Briefing on Content Strategy

LOTS of information was shared with campus-wide Web site administrators at a meeting on Thursday, Nov. 12. with the goal of helping everyone begin the process of creating, updating and migrating Web content onto the NEW Web pages that will be in Phase One of the launch.

We're sharing several documents via this blog that were presented at the meeting. There will be a followup meeting on Thursday, Nov. 19, 12:15 p.m. Humanities Lecture Hall for anyone who was unable to attend the meeting this week.

Here are some background materials to review:
Information Architecture (sitemap)

Design Template PowerPoint

Phase One Schedule

If you have questions, please email and we will try to either answer your questions via email or line up a time to meet with you to review how we can help with your site content challenges.

Thanks to all for your help in creating the new Web site.

Friday, October 9, 2009

We Have a Winner!

Almost 1,200 people responded to our recent online poll that asked faculty, staff, alumni, students and others to help us choose the best of two designs for the new UNC Asheville home page. The good news is there was a VERY clear preference and only 2.7 percent of the respondents didn’t like either design.

Almost 75 percent of respondents preferred a design called “Thinking Big.” That is clear validation that we’re on the right track with the design. Additional tweaks will be made to that design based on comments made by respondents and by members of the Web Advisory Committee who have been working on the project.

Here is the design that will move forward. It’s called “Thinking Big” because at UNC Asheville, we do just that.

In addition to the new look for the homepage, there will be new designs for the second-tier pages similar to the “Admissions” page mockup that reflects the same color scheme as the homepage.

Here is a sample of the new Admissions page,

Comments made by more than 500 people who took the preference test will help us make additional adjustments, especially for the header at the top of the page. An overwhelming number of people commented that they liked the inclusion of the mountain scenery on the header, but many also said only showing mountains did not fully describe our campus and the vibrant City of Asheville.

Therefore, we will be working on rotating headers that give a better sense of place. These multiple headers will rotate each time a user visits the page.

Here’s a brief summary of some of the themes that emerged from the preference testing:
• Respondents expressed a strong preference for blue as a predominate color, saying this connected to the university’s official color, and to the Blue Ridge Mountains.
• 90 comments of the 555 received liked using the mountains on the page in some way.
• Many respondents commented that the second design seemed cluttered and was too generic. There were negative comments about the green and orange color palette of the second design called “Framework for Discovery”.
• Many positive comments on the large, rotating feature and photograph saying this allowed readers to see the many faces of the campus.
• There were positive comments about the readability of “Thinking Big” and its use of color and organization of links.

Next steps
Programming and copy creation for the new pages will begin right away, and there will be 10 new templates developed for various pages within the main site. These templates will be programmed in the new Content Management System (Drupal). A subcommittee will be working on a content strategy and on determining which sub-pages will be a part of the initial relaunch of the Web site scheduled for early January.

The Web Advisory Committee also is working with ITS to identify all staff who have Web authoring duties so that we can begin providing additional information on migrating copy to the new templates and learning how to work with the CMS (Drupal). There are plans for training to be offered to staff on using the templates and Drupal.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

We're ready to test some designs!

The redesign of the UNC Asheville Web site has reached an exciting phase, and we need your help in telling us what you think of our top two design concepts.

After many months of working on site architecture, blueprints, content outlines and other preliminary work on the site, we are ready to preference test two designs that have made it though several rounds of testing and revisions by our university-wide committee as well as some student and faculty reviews.

Please take the survey (link below) to help guide our further evolutions of the designs. But first, let’s look at the designs and what they represent. We’ll be using your feedback to further modify designs in the next few weeks.


You will be seeing two designs, each with a homepage and a second-tier page (in this case the Admissions page). After you’ve picked your favorite, take the survey and add any comments you’d like.


We started this project so that the UNC Asheville Web site will reflect the culture of the university, create a sense of community and collaboration and give the user a content rich experience. Most importantly, we want Web users to easily find the information they are seeking, and a bit more than they expected. In a nutshell, we want to create a site that is distinctly UNC Asheville and conveys that personality.


1. Thinking Big - - This design tells the story of UNC Asheville through a combination of wide-angle scenes and tight shots paired with thought-provoking headlines showing upcoming events or showcasing students or faculty projects on campus. The images show how students can forge real connections with professors, get hands-on experience and contribute to the process of learning. At a smaller school like UNC Asheville, you get to see the bigger picture from a closer vantage point. A green and blue palette feels familiar yet fresh and inviting. The header evokes the spirit of discovery and our mountain location.

Home Page 1

Admissions Page 1

2. Framework for Discovery - - In this design we highlight a framework that allows students the freedom to discover their own path - - as a liberal arts education is known for doing. This is a classic design with a few “popped” elements, and a montage of images that can be updated to include any number of feature stories about activities or events on campus. There are subtle textures and a seasonal element in the top left. A subdued palette and traditional lines give this design a solid page structure.

Home Page 2

Admissions Page 2

Ready to take the survey and let us know your thoughts?
Click here.

Thank you for your comments. Check back often to read what others are saying.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Blueprints, Architecture and Features Reviewed

It may feel like summertime, but there’s no vacation break for those of us working on the UNC Asheville Web site redesign.

The university Web Redesign Advisory Team reviewed and gave significant input on the new site’s proposed “Blueprint” on Thursday , June 11, presented by Capstrat, the agency assisting us on the project.

Some of the information we reviewed included the site’s overarching goals:

• To reflect the culture of UNC Asheville
• To demonstrate our university’s mission through evidence
• To build a strong foundation on which to grow the site

To achieve those goals we want to show (and not just "tell") the distinguishing characteristics of our university, focusing on the events that are occurring on the campus, illustrating the success of our students, faculty and alumni, and giving examples of the meaning a quality liberal arts education.

The design, content and architecture of the Web site must take all of those things into consideration.

Several new features and functionality that we would like to build into the new site design were proposed, including interactive virtual tours of the campus, video interviews with students, a “Day in the Life” student blog, and a “Perspectives” feature that would allow faculty, staff and students to participate in online discussions of world events or issues being studied in various classes. Some Web Team members observed that these new features would be time intensive to produce, but would certainly set a new standard for our Web presence. We are excited about plans to work with faculty and students in Multimedia Arts and Sciences in the fall to produce a virtual campus tour and other features. More on that later.

The Information Architecture (IA) of the new site also was discussed, and Web Team members gave good suggestions for the main homepage links and sublinks. A revised sitemap is being studied and an online “tree test” (survey) is being conducted among faculty, staff, students, alumni and other groups to help us make sure the site is easy to navigate.

Please help us by taking part in this “tree test”. It only takes a few minutes. You can find the survey online here:

We’re also continuing to “build a strong foundation” for the Web site in the future by securing a Content Management System (CMS). A CMS is software that creates and manages Web pages including editing and distribution of content within a Web site. It also allows much greater consistency in design throughout a Web site. More information about the chosen CMS, called Drupal, will be shared with the campus in the coming months, including which individual sites will be migrated into the CMS and what kind of training will be offered.

We continue to be on schedule for the next major steps forward - - Content Creation and Visual Design - - beginning in July.

Comments are welcome!