College launches redesigned Web site| July 31, 2008
(Williamsburg, Va.) – Featuring beautiful images, easier navigation, and student blogs, the College of William and Mary’s newly redesigned Web site made its official debut today at www.wm.edu.
Highlights of the new, user-centric site include a more effective search engine, better presentation of news and multimedia, and five new audience-specific “gateways.” The gateways will be available from a drop-down menu that appears on every page of the new site and will bring alumni, parents, current students, faculty and staff, and friends and neighbors to special pages customized with information and links just for them.
“After 18 months of intense effort, William & Mary now has a new Web site. This is vital to the College’s capacity to communicate effectively on campus and throughout the world,” said William and Mary Interim President W. Taylor Reveley III. “Congratulations to Susan Evans, director of Web and communication services, and all those who worked with her to bring us to this happy state.”
The redesign effort began in May 2006 when College Provost P. Geoffrey Feiss charged an assessment committee to review the College's Web presence and provide recommendations.
"It has become trite to say that an institution's Web site is its public face in this digital time, but that makes this no less true,” said Feiss. “For many who do not know William & Mary, their first contact will be this new, lively, fresh website. Literally hundreds of faculty, staff, and students have worked to bring this project to fruition over the past two years. We believe we have gotten it right in capturing the essence of this remarkable place."
In February 2007, Feiss officially announced the Web redesign project, which was dubbed re.web (pronounced “re-dot-web”). A re.web project team, which included people from the offices of information technology, university relations and admission, was formed to lead the effort with Evans as its chair. A Web redesign advisory committee was also created. The advisory committee included students, staff and faculty members from a variety of disciplines and offices across the campus to broadly represent the stakeholders in the new site.
In July 2007, the redesign contract was awarded to mStoner, a communications consulting group based out of Chicago that has worked with other institutions including Princeton University, Yale Law School and the University of Chicago.
Throughout the redesign process, the re.web team sought to keep members of the campus aware of and involved in the project. They consulted with students, faculty and staff members and surveyed nearly 2,000 prospective and early-decision students. The team also recorded weekly podcasts, created a Facebook group and even started a blog.
“When we first started planning the project … I said that we were going to do this in the most transparent way that we could because I feel like this Web site belongs to everybody,” said Evans, director of Web and communication services in IT. “We have so many different constituencies that are a part of this project that I wanted people to feel like that had a voice and way to get information. I also knew we would be more successful if we heard from people early on about what they thought was important than if we did it in a much more closed way and tried to launch a site without involving the right people. Because we involved so many, the site truly reflects the special nature of the College.”
In January 2008, three possible designs for the site’s home page were revealed and posted on the re.web blog for comment. The re.web team and members of mStoner also met with members of the College community to get feedback on the three design options. After consulting with the College president and provost, the re.web team announced the final design in February 2008.
Over the past few months, the re.web team worked with faculty and staff members from across the campus to design the information architecture, write copy and select photos for each of the new sites. They also taught the first small group how to use the new content management system, Hannon Hill's Cascade Server, to create and/or edit information on the College’s new Web site. The Web site was previewed to the campus community during a soft launch on July 22. On the same day, the re.web team members were notified that their blog was named the “People’s Choice Winner” for best institutional blog from eduStyle.net, a Web design gallery dedicated to higher education Web sites.
Today’s official launch includes all of the site’s “top-level” pages and the sites for undergraduate admission, financial Aid, registrar, psychology, dean of students, and Arts & Sciences. However, not all of the site’s hundreds of pages will look new right away. The School of Law and Virginia Institute of Marine Science will launch with the new design on Sept. 30. The process of moving content from the old site to the new will be ongoing and will eventually include the site for the School of Education (to be launched in late fall) and the Mason School of Business, which will launch in March 2009.
Evans said that she hopes the new site will serve “as a way to tell the personal stories of the W&M community, and offer a window into what it’s like to teach, learn and work at the College.”
She also hopes that the site will give those outside of the College community a little glimpse into what makes William and Mary so unique.
“I hope they get a sense of how, while small and intimate and old, it’s also a wonderful community with a lot of interesting stuff going on and a lot of innovation underway,” said Evans.
For more information on the redesign project, visit http://www.wm.edu/reweb/ or the project blog at http://reweb.blogspot.com/.