Designers Credit New Philosophy for Revitalized Campus Web Site

    Two students surf UCSD’s new Web site, designed to be more aesthetically pleasing and easier to use. (Photo Illustration By Erik Jepsen/Guardian)

    Unchanged since its last renovation in 2000, UCSD’s main Web
    site underwent a thorough reconstruction in the weeks prior to winter break.
    According to its developers, highlights of the new site include easier
    navigability, a user-friendly interface and greater visual appeal.

    The Web site’s redesign was led by the six members of the
    Campus Web Site Executive Committee, which collaborated with the Campus Web
    Site Coordinating Committee, a group composed of academic and administrative
    representatives. Developers made use of surveys, focus groups and usability
    exercises to gather input from prospective and current students, their
    families, faculty, staff and alumni.

    CWEC Chair and Audrey Geisel University Librarian Brian
    Schottlaender said that while there were differences between the directions in
    which the various groups wanted to see the Web site evolve, most of those
    involved in the process expressed the desire for a Web site that even those
    unfamiliar with UCSD could easily use and enjoy.

    “The biggest difference between the new Web site and the
    previous version is the philosophy behind it,” Schottlaender said in an e-mail.
    “The previous Web site was very organization-centric, which is to say it was
    built ‘by us, for us.’ The organization and structure of the site made sense
    only to people already heavily immersed in the UC San Diego culture. The design
    of the new Web site, on the other hand, is user-centered.”

    Central to this user-friendly notion are new features such
    as information about the six-college system, direct links to each college’s Web
    site, a Google search box and a consistent visual presentation that will
    eventually be expanded to the individual UCSD department Web sites as well.

    CWEC members have access to consultants to develop and
    maintain the site’s features, as well as a full-time usability expert hired to
    preserve an attractive and technologically forward site.

    The impetus for the Web site’s redesign lies in the rapid
    evolution of Internet technology. Many of the processes and theories behind the
    site’s new look stem from this increasing change of pace, he added.

    “We realized that we needed some new vibrancy, more images
    and the ability to have our home page convey the most up-to-date information
    and news, so that students, faculty, staff and visitors could make informed and
    timely decisions,” Schottlander said. “We needed to update our site but also
    adapt to the ever-changing nature of the Web itself.”

    A number of students have praised the redesigned Web site,
    calling the changes both necessary and effective.

    “The new site looks less cluttered, which makes it easier to
    navigate,” Thurgood Marshall College junior Elaine Li said. “It also simply
    looks better. The redesign was a well-needed change.”

    The improved navigability stems directly from a simplified
    system of “audience entry points,” appearing as horizontal tabs that allow
    access to categories such as “current students” and “topical entry points,”
    which appear on the vertical option bar with choices such as “apply” and
    “explore.” The Web site boasts consistent placement of these entry points on
    each redesigned page, lending an easier understanding of how the site functions
    as a whole.

    While individual UCSD department Web sites remain unchanged,
    members of each department will begin receiving training in a content
    management system in March. The system will contain coding for the same design
    as the main page.

    Schottlaender said that those surveyed considered
    user-friendly simplification to be one of the most desired changes to the old
    UCSD Web site.

    “All of our audience groups are looking for information and
    want to find what they’re looking for quickly and easily,” he said.

    Users are encouraged to e-mail their comments about the new
    site through a link located on the bottom of each page. Separate departments
    and committees are responsible for monitoring user responses and acting on any
    problems that may arise.

    Schottlaender said the system has already been used to fix
    small bugs, and developers are currently refining the Google search mechanism,
    enhancing page display and modifying code for various browsers.

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