On Monday, Dec. 15, Columbia will launch a newly designed homepage where improved information architecture and design make it easier to navigate the site and obtain information more efficiently and effectively.
"The new homepage and the first-level pages beneath it will now have an energetic and contemporary look reflecting more accurately the University's culture," says Frank Wolf, dean of the School of Continuing Education and chair of the Web Advisory Committee. "In addition, the consistent navigation and style of the main pages will facilitate far more coherent access for all to the many resources of the University."
The redesign was a comprehensive process involving input from the Web Advisory Committee, administrators, faculty, staff and students. Groundwork began during the summer when Columbia University's Digital Knowledge Ventures (DKV), the organization that developed the award-winning Columbia Interactive e-learning site, analyzed other universities' sites to ensure that Columbia's new homepage would reflect the best practices in higher education. DKV also solicited input on the various designs under consideration from student and faculty groups.
The result is a more coherent architecture and consistent navigation system, fewer and more targeted links, a clearer visual identity, and a consistent look and feel for most of the top-level pages.
"The new homepage is now organized around a select number of resources and user groups to better serve the Columbia community, " says Todd Hardy, executive director of DKV, referring to the limited number of new primary links to programmatic and audience based resources. "In addition to providing a friendlier more efficient communications channel, the flexible design of the new homepage also helps to celebrate the Columbia's active role in both the daily life of the City of New York and the evolution of worldwide affairs."
User input and recommendations were a key component of the redesign strategy. Representatives from 24 groups across campus have been involved, including: AcIS, Student Services, University Development and Alumni Relations (UDAR), executive committee of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, University Senate Committee on Online Learning and Digital Media, as well as representatives from Columbia College, SEAS and General Studies student councils and the Graduate Student Advisory Council.
The "About This Site" link, located at the bottom of the homepage, provides a diagram mapping these and other homepage changes as well as a detailed explanation of the redesign process and a complete list of participants.
Many who have previewed the newly designed homepage say that it has a more lively feel, particularly because of the rotating images and faces of Columbia. These images will change throughout the day as users return to or reload the homepage. In addition, a new section will be added on the lower right to highlight special campus events, announcements or emergency information.
Many of the top pages accessible from the homepage also will have a new look, while retaining their current content. For example, when clicking on links from the homepage, the left navigation toolbar will be retained on most pages, for easy, immediate access to other key areas of Columbia's site. The toolbar will give users the opportunity to explore the site more deeply without losing navigational abilities, an option not previously available.
The redesign is part of an ongoing process. In the coming months Digital Knowledge Ventures will continue to work on improvements throughout the site.