Bath University launched its newly redesigned homepage last week. The new homepage was made available last Monday as part of a soft launch and the final switch occured on Saint Patrick’s Day. This is a very nice example of a redesign entirely done in-house, relying on the kind of iterative approach Nick DeNardis will talk about in his session next month at the Web Redesign Boot Camp.
I found this redesign project particularly interesting because of the process that was used by Alison Kerwin, Head of Web Services at the University of Bath, and her team. I was especially interested in the use of a homepage Success Metrics Guide, spelling out clear and measurable goals for this redesigned homepage. That’s why I contacted Alison to ask her a few questions so we can all learn from her team’s experience.
1) Why did you decide to redesign the homepage?
The homepage is part of a major re-development of our external facing website. Given its importance we didn’t want to rush into the homepage and instead waited until we’d fine tuned the new visual identity. Before this I think the last re-design was around 2006.
2) In your blog post outlining your redesign process, you mentioned that your team developed a guide on how to measure homepage success. Can you tell us a bit more about this guide? Why did you choose to develop this guide?
Before we started any design work we really wanted to do our research.
The homepage success guide was built on the back of this and includes some key criteria for us to monitor, including:
- Increase in visitors to international pages to 15% – currently 10 per cent
- Ensuring all calls to action are being used
- Increase in traffic to features and key areas – eg. Study 5%, people searching for Programmes, interacting with the news items now in the features area
- Lowered bounce rate
It was developed for our internal use only but we’ve published it on our blog for anyone who’d like to know more.
3) What was the most difficult part in this redesign project?
Our designer would probably say “see answer to question 4”! For me it was just knowing where to start with the design phase. Liam (our
designer) presented a number of very different ideas and it took a while for us to get to a point where we all felt ‘this is it’. From his perspective he had to try and produce designs that worked for many different audiences so he had a huge challenge on his hands.
The most rewarding part was doing focus groups with local schools and getting consistently great feedback on the proposed design.
4) Any lessons learned you’d like to share with your colleagues in other universities?
We did our research, worked on a number of concepts, organised focus groups, iterated and then user tested. After this we demonstrated the ‘final’ page to our Senior Management Team. We did this because we wanted to demonstrate we had thought everything through but in hindsight we should have done this sooner as they wanted to see a few last minute tweaks.
It is a difficult one because you don’t want to present a half-baked idea but if your Senior Management Team wants to sign off on something you probably want to find out what they don’t like much earlier in the process.
Planning or working on the web redesign of your higher ed website? Register for Web Redesign Boot Camp (April 12-14, 2011) to learn what you need to know.