Process

Website redesigns at the University at Albany take into account a completely new navigation structure (i.e. menu), design, and content strategy. Research and discovery is also included at the beginning of every project so that key stakeholders (such as prospective students and their parents) can provide feedback on their impressions and usage of the website. The following is the process we follow from start to finish:

  1. Strategic Vision and Direction
  2. Research and Discovery
  3. Information Architecture and User Experience
  4. Content Auditing and Development
  5. Concept Development
  6. Design and Usability Testing
  7. Development and Programming
  8. Content Migration and Site Build
  9. Q/A, Testing, Site Review
  10. Content Maintenance Training and Governance

Strategic Vision and Direction

The basis of any effective website is knowing who your school/department's customers are and what your short-term and long-term goals are. The strategic vision and direction phase helps determine the future priorities of the new website and identifies the core/primary audience that the school or department is trying to reach.

Research/Discovery

This step involves talking with internal stakeholders about their needs and experience and learning about how the current website is (or isn't) meeting those needs. These findings are the basis for later decisions regarding site architecture, navigation and design.

  • Focus groups with internal audiences
  • Interviews with departments and key stakeholders
  • Analytics review
  • Heatmap review
  • Competitive analysis of peer/aspirational school websites

These findings are the basis for our later decisions regarding site architecture, navigation, and design.

Information Architecture and User Experience

At this point the project enters a phase where the data and information gathered in the previous stages helps define goals and objectives for the university moving forward. The existing content is also reviewed so that good content can be identified and the site can be trimmed of extra and unnecessary content. This will be the basis for the new site structure and where new/existing content is placed; in many cases content will be archived if it is no longer applicable or needed.

Content Auditing and Development

Visual appearance, although important, is only one aspect of design. The utility of the site (how well it functions) and its usability (how effectively users can navigate it) are also key factors. In many cases the core navigation structure of a website normally goes back to when the site was last redesigned. The outdated design does not serve the university's needs and the needs of prospective students. As such, we remove the "business hierarchy" from our websites and support a more user-centric and visitor-friendly form of navigating. Based on the findings in previous stages supporting content must be created and edited following the new architecture that is in place for the website.

Concept Development

Once the new structure of the website is established and site goals are clear, the project moves into the design phase. To enhance the visual impact of the site, the design team specifically works toward including more graphic and media elements in the new site.

Design and Usability Testing

The project enters a usability testing phase once the wireframes and initial design concepts are drafted. The team meets to review the user personas identified earlier in the project and works to enhance those into more detailed scenarios of students applying to the university for undergraduate or graduate studies.

Development and Programming

Once the design is finalized and validated via the usability phase, the University Web Design team begins development and programming on the new site. The utility of the site (how well it functions) and its usability (how effectively users can navigate it) are key factors in our redesign endeavors, and these aspects continue to be tested and enhanced by the web team in building the new site.

Content Migration and Site Build

Content written and edited earlier in the project is migrated to the new site, and new imagery, related documents and other elements are added to the new site.  You will have time to review your current site and make any edits prior to being moved over.  The Web Design Team will work with you to begin going through the process to review your site.  Documentation and instructions will be provided.

Q/A, Testing, Site Review

As the development process winds down, there is a final review of site with team and a beta site URL is sent to key parties for internal site review. Final testing is done across supported web browsers and viewports to ensure functionality and usability.

Content Maintenance Training and Governance

Maintainers are identified in conjunction with the department overseeing the area of website, whether the core site, school website, or a departmental site. Training is provided by University Web Design staff through the content management training program.