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Kent State to Launch New Website: Rollout Plan Announced

The holidays are fast approaching, as is the new year and a new website for Kent State University.

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Kent State to Launch New Website: Rollout Plan Announced

Posted Nov. 18, 2013
enter photo description
Kent State University will launch a new website in 2014.
This iteration of the redesign concept will undergo minor
adjustments and become the final version.

The holidays are fast approaching, as is the new year and a new website for Kent State University.

A cross-divisional effort kicked off late this summer between the divisions of University Relations, Information Services and universitywide departments with the core objectives of:

  • Redesigning the university’s website;
  • Transitioning all pages in the university website, including Regional Campus and departmental websites, to function optimally on all hand-held devices, including phones and tablets; and
  • Replacing the university’s content management system.

Why Change?

“Because we live in an ever-changing world, our website needs to meet users in their preferred spaces, be it from a smartphone in the car or a desktop computer in the office,” says Iris Harvey, vice president for university relations. “Our team has conducted a large body of research to interpret how Web visitors interact with our site and how they would like to use it, which requires a transition to designs that perform well on multiple devices. This shift will culminate in a trendier, more functional website, which will advance student recruitment and the provision of services.”

“To support these more modern and technically oriented websites, Information Services identified the need to empower university community members with a more sophisticated content management system,” says Ed Mahon, vice president for information services. “We investigated multiple solutions and opted for the powerful, robust solution that will be provided by Drupal.”

By 2013, mobile phones will overtake PCs as the most common Web-access device worldwide, and by 2015, more than 80 percent of the handsets sold in mature markets will be smartphones. However, only 20 percent of those handsets are likely to be Windows phones. By 2015, media tablet shipments will reach around 50 percent of laptop shipments and Windows 8 will likely be in third place behind Google’s Android and Apple iOS operating systems. – Gartner Inc.

Timeline:
Because of the magnitude of the project, consider that in the Kent.edu domain there are currently more than 52,000 pages of content, it will be comprised of multiple phases:

  • Phase One – Redesign of kent.edu institutional pages and admissions websites, to launch April 30, 2014.
  • Phase Two, Spring and Summer 2014 – Redesign and content migration of the Freshman Suite websites, those websites most commonly used by incoming freshmen
  • Phase Three, Summer and Fall 2014 – Redesign and content migration of Regional Campus websites
  • Phase Four, Fall 2014 – Redesign and content migration of college and academic department websites
  • Phase Five, Fall and Winter 2014 – Redesign and content migration of administration department websites

Research and Discovery
The behind-the-scenes work is well underway.

Design and Content Side: During the project start-up phase, much research was conducted. University Communication and Marketing’s Web team benchmarked 28 university websites, as well as various corporate websites to see what is trending. Additionally, a survey was conducted to evaluate perceptions of the current website. Other information used during this analysis stage included info@kent.edu email inquiries generated from www.kent.edu and Google Analytics Web usage data. The breadth of this information, which explored actual site functionality and wish lists for the current site, helped channel the findings into core areas for testing and improvement. Four wireframes — black and white mock-ups that illustrates placement and labels of items with no graphical treatment or images — were tested with future students, parents and current students. Findings were then translated into three design concepts, which were assessed via an online survey, as well as through focus groups and usability tests conducted with future students in area high schools, parents, alumni, current students, faculty and staff, including current university community members at Regional Campuses.

Web Redesign and Content Management System Transition Committee

Iris Harvey, committee co-chair, vice president, University Relations
Ed Mahon, committee co-chair, vice president, Information Services
Tyler Beal, applications developer, Web Presence group, Information Services
Tyler Clark, interactive designer and developer, University Communications and Marketing
Lin Danes, director, Web services, University Communications and Marketing
Chris Hallahan, interactive designer and developer, University Communications and Marketing
Justin Hilton, senior associate vice president, University Relations
Sameer Jaleel, director, Web Presence group, Information Services
Prasanna Joshi, lead applications developer, Web Presence group, Information Services
Liz Lewis, market research manager, University Communications and Marketing
Mary Mandalari, senior secretary, University Communications and Marketing
Gabrielle Mingrone, project coordinator, Foundations of Excellence, University Communications and Marketing
Rebecca Murphy, associate vice president, University Communications and Marketing
Anne Palmieri, internal and electronic communications specialist, University Communications and Marketing
Tim Priester, interactive designer and developer, University Communications and Marketing
Coleen Santee, executive director, Enterprise Support and Application Services, Information Services
Scott Stillisano, senior applications developer, Web Presence group, Information Services
Sarah Yeager, Web team member, University Communications and Marketing

Technology Side:
During the early phase of the project, Information Services’ Web presence team members benchmarked a multitude of content management systems used by other higher education institutions and corporations. After thorough analysis of various proprietary and open source solutions, the team selected the open-source Drupal solution, identifying it as the most powerful, robust and scalable solution. The new Drupal implementation will take advantage of cloud-based hosting and development solutions to better meet the institution’s needs.

Project Status: Immersed in Redesign Phase One
Design and Content Side:
At present, the project has shifted to final testing and fine-tuning of a final home page concept, which will be translated into the content management templates by Information Services’ Web presence group. Thereafter, the first wave of Drupal users, University Communications and Marketing’s Web team, will delve into the content migration process. University Communications and Marketing’s Web team also has started preliminary academic and administrative department home page concepts, which will be shared with the university community throughout December and January.

Technology Side:
Information Services’ Web presence group has completed finalizing the development, staging and production environments within the new cloud solution. Currently, the team is working on identifying and developing base Drupal components that are required for the initial rollout. This phase of the project will wrap up in December.

What’s Next?
After phase one wraps on April 30, 2014, with the launch of the new institutional and admissions websites, University Communications and Marketing’s Web team will focus whole heartedly on providing counsel to departmental clients as the various phases of the project are tackled.

Client consultations and pre-production discussions will begin, particularly for phase-two Freshman Suite clients, in December 2013 and January 2014.

University Communications and Marketing has scheduled a series of content management system (CMS) transition workshops and will be including clients on a by-invitation basis, so that attendees can begin pre-production work that will support successful project completions. A workbook has been developed and will serve as a helpful guide.

As new sites launch in Drupal, beginner and intermediate trainings will be provided by University Communications and Marketing, as has been the case with CommonSpot trainings.

Additionally, CommonSpot beginner and advanced trainings will continue to be offered until all clients have moved their websites to the new Drupal system.

Stay Connected:

Project milestones will be shared through upcoming issues of e-Inside, at various departmental meetings and via the content management system listserv.

For a trip down memory lane and viewing of previous versions of www.kent.edu home pages, see www.kent.edu/ucm/services/web/history-of-kent-edu.cfm.

If you have questions about the redesign or process, contact Lin Danes at ldanes@kent.edu.