This is the 17th in a several-part series of interviews with communicators who have redesigned or updated their Web sites. If you have redesigned your site or have a site to suggest for these interviews, let us know.In this edition: Tracey Bartlett on the Minnesota Supercomputing Institute Web siteWhat were your reasons for redesigning the site?
The old site was dated and we suspected that our users and potential users weren't readily able to find the information they needed. We also needed to redesign the site to meet the U's new standards. And most of us hated the way the old one looked, anyway. :-)
We had not had a full-time webmaster since early 2002, and had relied on part-time students to handle web updates until late 2007, when the Institute's senior management realized that our users expected more from our website and that we needed to put more of our administrative activities online. We hired a full-time web developer in 2008.What kind of user research or user testing did you do?
We worked with the Usability Lab to do a card sort, which helped us figure out the kinds of terms that our users understand and expect. We also tracked the questions we get on our help line and the kinds of questions our User Support and Admin staff get when they work with users and potential users.What factors went in to the organization of the site?
We wanted to make sure that it was easy for our users and potential users to find the forms and information they need. We also wanted to use the website to aid our nascent public-relations efforts.How did you manage the project and keep it on track?
We set up a web-development team to discuss issues and ideas. The team is headed by the web developer and includes representatives from the three divisions in the Institute (User Support, Systems, Administration). The web developer set a timeline for rollout of the new site and kept the team informed of progress. Team members kept the staffs in their divisions up-to-date with the process and encouraged their review and input as new parts were implemented. Any issues are brought to the team for resolution.
The new website is still very much a work in progress. The next major milestone is that we are going online with our access-request system. We are also implementing a CMS; it's still in beta, but staff are encouraged to use it and submit bug reports.
Senior management involvement was necessary to keeping the timeline on track. All the senior managers and our director have been kept informed of the timeline and when pieces of the new design are planned to be released.How are you evaluating the redesign's success?
We're monitoring user comments on the help line and in our interactions with the users. We also have feedback links on the site. We're also encouraging staff members to bring up issues to the web team.