Testing Admissions

As previously mentioned in User Testing Round One - What you’re telling us, the goal of the recent navigation surveys is to ultimately restructure the navigation for the website. Our main issue going into this particular survey was deciding what information was necessary to include. As the current structure covers a broader scope of information not necessarily related to admissions (e.g. aspects of student life), we carried some of that information over to the new structure, tested it, and found that most of it as suspected is not information that needs to be included within admissions. Based on your feedback, we are disregarding the following tasks as the information will not be included in new navigation.: 11: Where could you find information on transportation options? 8: Where could you find which residence halls are co-ed? 14: Where could you find information about on-campus dining options? 15: Where could you find a list of clubs? As for the breakdown of the data … [Read more...]

Challenges and Benefits of the New UMW Faculty and Staff Site

The IT move toward the end-of-life shut down of EagleNet presents an opportunity to produce a useful, comprehensive faculty and staff website. Digital Communications tasked an intern, Sabia Prescott, with identifying and organizing the content for the first iteration. The original source material, the content of EagleNet, was expanded on and enhanced by feedback from the Web Advisory Council and the President's Technology Advisory Council. The resulting site can now be seen at http://www.umw.edu/in/. Users are asked to continue to provide feedback in an effort to improve user experience. Filled with various features on student accomplishments, campus happenings, and notable awards, the UMW homepage offers few immediate resources for university faculty and staff. Though it does exist, information for employees may take a while to find. This leads users either to use the search bar, which may not always produce the desired results, or spend lots of time shuffling through various … [Read more...]

User Testing Round One – What you’re telling us

Results are in for the navigation survey sent out in January! Our goal is to make the UMW website’s navigation intuitive and functional. To accomplish that we are breaking down our navigation to its basic structure, surveying the Mary Washington community using software built specifically to test website navigation, and analyzing your responses to create a navigation tailored to you. The proposed new navigation tested incredibly well, overall, and we learned a lot about user experience and UMW audience expectations. Users (that's you) can now take the navigation survey for the admissions site. For the first round we had two surveys in which we asked randomly assigned participants to perform a series of five tasks. The set of tasks was identical across the two surveys, but the navigation used to perform those tasks differed. This allowed us to compare our current navigation to a new, proposed one, and see what worked and what absolutely did not work for both. It also allowed us to see … [Read more...]

From Web Services to Digital Communications: Year 1

In April of 2013, I first contemplated picking up my entire life and moving across the country for an opportunity to genuinely make a difference in the direction and outcomes of web strategies at a small, public, liberal arts school on the East Coast.  Now, a year after first stepping into my office at UMW for the first time, I'm in a position to assess the past 12 months, during which I helped transition the UMW web site from a service model to a strategic resource. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but here are some of my first-year observations: We have resources Incredibly engaged faculty & staff - It's an absolute pleasure to work with site managers and content contributors who genuinely care about the success of not only their programs or departments, but also the institution as a whole. You guys want to do it better and smarter, and for that I'm truly thankful. I can't wait to see what we can accomplish together. Better data collection - UMW has consistently … [Read more...]

Bringing forth the toolbar

I've been known to say that "helpful links" is geek for "we don't know what to do with this stuff." It's the web equivalent of a junk drawer, or, more accurately, a junk room. A poorly organized garage catch-all full of all kinds of actually great things that really could be somewhere else if we took the time to arrange the living space more intentionally. You get the point. One of the first things we did when I came on board was to improve the way we collect user data. I wanted to know where users were clicking, since we had so many option to get them through the site. What were they actually using, and did we really need the catch-all after all? Let me name off the sections of this screen. It'll matter when I show you the data. The wall of links here is called “Resource Links”, and the dark blue toolbar is labeled “Online Tools”. “Customize your background” is a neat trick, but has zero strategic value and data shows essentially zero use. It was a lot of code and … [Read more...]

Going Mobile – What we did and why it matters

As announced in EagleEye on April 10, we've made a huge change to how the UMW site is viewed on mobile devices. Here we'll talk about the differences and decision making that went into this rollout. This display shows the College of Business homepage on a computer, using the old mobile interface, and with the new mobile responsive theme. One of the major problems with the old mobile interface was the site layout had to be configured very specifically to get the components to display in the mobile view at all. With content managers making changes all the time, we couldn’t guarantee their changes wouldn’t break the mobile view. The new mobile responsive theme uses existing content regardless of changes content managers make to the site. Here’s the University homepage on a computer, on the old mobile interface, and on the new mobile responsive theme. The old mobile interface provided icons of the top things we thought users would want to be able to do, but it made it almost … [Read more...]

Defining “effective”

Our primary function is to provide an effective web presence for the University. It’s essentially our mission statement. As I’ve settled into my new role I’ve realized the meaning of “effective” has evolved since the creation of University Relations. The web office was previously focused on ensuring the underlying technology and tools were functional…the CMS rolled out and thoroughly implemented, servers operational, plugins installed, errors addressed, support provided. Those things are still important, but with the institution wide focus on enrollment and identity management, “effective” now goes a great deal further than simply “operational”. I created this web maturity model to demonstrate the state of an institutional website (or portions thereof) from the early phase of “we need a website because they exist and other organizations are doing it” through “perhaps we should consider the impact of this tool on our audience and bottom line” to “the website is a strategic resource … [Read more...]