AUSTIN, Texas—In conjunction with the Explore UT event and the Texas Independence Day celebration, The University of Texas at Austin unveiled a redesigned Web site on the weekend of March 2.
“We are excited about the new design and the opportunities it will provide to engage people on campus and off campus,” said Don Hale, vice president for public affairs. “Through changing features and updated news stories, we think the new site will more dynamically communicate what makes The University of Texas at Austin a special place, without sacrificing the quick and easy navigation of the current site.”
It has been more than three years since the last redesign of the UT Web site. While the site has served the university well, it is showing its age, said David Cook, assistant director of information technology services at the university, who led the site redesign team.
“The redesign process began early in the fall semester,” he said. “First, we examined how people navigate the current site by analyzing site use and search behavior.
“It was from this analysis, for example, that we noticed that campus maps were not easy for people to find on the site. They are featured more prominently in the navigation bar of the new site. Next, we reviewed Web sites of our peer institutions and other successful sites to see where the University could improve.”
The following set of goals for the redesign was developed from the analysis:
• Create a front door on the Web that:
— Reflects the best of The University of Texas at Austin
— Conveys the mission and values of the institution
— Conveys the value of the institution to Texas and the world
• Make the home page more attractive to external audiences; more than half of the visitors to the UT home page are not current faculty, staff or students
• Maintain and improve the site’s orientation toward audience groups, organizing information according to their needs, not the university’s bureaucratic structure
• Maintain and improve the site’s ability to help people find what they need
• Create a visual identity on the Web that scales well and can be readily adopted by other departments and programs
• Retain the attention of our primary audiences for longer periods of time — for instance, through interesting features and stories
• Cultivate pride in the university and familiarity with its overall distinctions
• Deliver a valuable public service via the UT Web site
• Create a mechanism for highlighting existing UT Web sites — such as the Perry Castañeda Library’s Map Collection, the Latin American Network Information Center and others — that already are popular public services
• Meet accessibility requirements, and generally follow the highest industry standards for accessibility to all audiences.
In October, focus groups were conducted with students, faculty, staff and alumni. They were asked what they like about the current university Web presence and what they believed needed improvement. From these focus groups and the data gathered from site use and benchmarking, five prototype designs were developed.
In early December, a second round of focus groups was conducted with students, faculty, staff, alumni and high school students in which feedback was compiled on the five prototype designs. From this feedback, and much iteration, a final design was developed. During the past several weeks this design has undergone usability testing with various constituent groups.
“We believe this design will enable frequent users of the page to find their links quickly, and it will better enable us to highlight the broad range of activities and assets at the university,” Hale said. “The new home page will be more functional than the current page, and it will enable the university to communicate what makes it a special place in a more timely and engaging manner.
“The new site has been created with a Web user’s orientation. We welcome comments from people who visit our site because these comments will be the basis for future improvements,” Hale said.