The Ivan Allen College within Georgia Tech embarked a yearlong website redesign in 2014. I served as information architect and content strategist, overseeing the redesign, implementation, and launch of the completely overhauled site.
As primary news writer and producer of content for web, I was uniquely situated in my role as both the potential user and designer of the system. I constructed databases, produced visual content, and had a hand in the design and layout of every page within the site.
Search Engine Optimization
Step 1: Defining the Users
The first procedural element was to conduct a task analysis of the current site’s use. Who is using it? Why are they using it? Who is NOT using the site and why? Talking to non-users can often provide crucial feedback (and help mitigate confirmation bias).
Our users were as varied as their purposes in using the site: as a document archive for faculty and staff across the college; as a primary news source for several Atlanta-based publications; as a students resource for academic requirements, community events, and career-building opportunities; as a recruitment medium for potential students and researchers; and as an information sources for sundry initiatives and research programs.
Step 2: Building the Architecture
The website undergoing a redesign was, in one word, massive. The site served a broad array of purposes to various users.
After defining a target audience, we set out to establish:
•A cohesive design language
•An overall tone of text-based content
•Parameters within which we accept/reject content
•Features that were needed to support current workflow
•Desired features to facilitate workflow expansion
Rather than starting from scratch, we used the previous website’s architecture as a launching pad. The next step was to decide what worked and what was perhaps not as effective. Through web analytics, we had a good idea of which features were not drawing much attention. Through focus groups, we garnered a sense of what features users were missing. Through a series of meetings with staff and administrators, we cultivated a sense of what use the website served in their daily work practices.
A large portion of staff daily workflow is composing news and research features. We conducted an analysis on the types of news items and related content were being produced, the workarounds people had implemented over the years, and potential features that would assist in the accessibility, readability, and visual presentation of the content. We created a series of affinity note diagrams to assist in this process (aka what is design without sticky notes?).
Working with the design requirements for features, news, press, and other announcements, we created wireframes for a variety of features within the larger website, including: a front-page banners feature system, an event RSS feed, recent news and events modules, and independent pages for each news type.
A secondary feature was a system within the website used to build monthly newsletters from written and visual content accrued during that term. It had to be easy to use by non-designers, work seamlessly with a mail client, and was packaged with a process book.
Step 3: Implementation and Analysis
After wireframing and working with an external programmer to get the development site up and running, the next few months were spent addressing each page in turn. In this capacity, I served as both content strategist and visual designer, producing graphics and content for individual pages.
As I worked through these pages, we developed a design language that was then documented in a series of process books for our internal team.
Lastly, I proofed the website for continuity and applied SEO terms to facilitate familiarity with the new site.
Search Engine Optimization
Website Has Been Published!
View it live, or check out just the front page below