Northland’s last site-wide redesign project was done in 2007-08. Since then, everything “web” has changed. The rise of social media, the evolution of video/digital marketing, and the mainstream adoption of mobile devices have all drastically changed user expectations. While our college website was revered and awarded as one of the nation’s best two-year college websites in the past (Paragon Award – 2008), a new website is needed to stay current with user expectations.
Our website, in most cases, is the first and most important brand touchpoint for potential students, therefore an updated approach is necessary to continue a positive brand perception and user experience. Our virtual front door must effectively present the image and message that we wish to share with the world. For that reason, we want your input, feedback, and guidance. Our goal is to create a new web presence that helps you do your job better, helps your department/program and the college meet its goals, positively showcases the Northland brand, and advances Northland’s mission. We canʼt do it without your help.
The vision for the new Northland website will be informed by in-depth research, online surveys, and on-site interviews of students, faculty, staff, alumni, community members, etc. This project is not about putting a new “skin” on the existing website. It’s about restructuring the entire site to be more focused on user needs and to determine how best to tell Northland’s story in a compelling and impactful way. Before we start work on designing and developing a new website, a project discovery and definition exercise will be performed. The purpose of discovery is to gather information, determine prioritized user goals and expectations, and ultimately define what features and functionality are required to achieving those goals. This important phase will inform all decisions we’ll make by helping us define a series of deliverables that will set the stage for how we’ll develop a new website that addresses our internal needs and exceeds audience expectations.
In line with Northland’s strategic enrollment goals, the primary audience for the website is prospective students, but since this will be a complete overhaul of the site, it also will include multiple sub-audiences (faculty, staff, current students, alumni, community members, etc.). Marketing and branding best practices, responsive design, content strategy, search engine audit/optimization, and ADA compliance will also be included in our project development.
Moving forward, the discovery phase will be broken into segments:
Research/Interviews/Focus Groups: Online surveys and on-site meetings with prospective students, administration, faculty, staff, students, alumni, community members, etc. Analyze our existing website analytics and set up benchmarks. Analyze competitor and aspirational websites.
User Personas/Journey Mapping: Summarize and prioritize end-user behaviors, motivations, and needs. Compile user persona stories to cover all necessary features/functionality/usability from multiple user perspectives. Consolidate these stories into a comprehensive and cohesive functional requirements outline.
Information Architecture: Develop a visual map of all of the key pages on the new site based on identified audience needs. Map out user flows to define navigation structure and elements. Develop a blueprint for a majority of the Northland website, sub-sites for programs/departments, and micro campaign sites for marketing/enrollment.
We’ll continue to use the Northland At Work newsletter to provide updates to the college community on the status of this project. We look forward to working with everyone to create the next generation of Northland’s website.