University redesigns website
Marcus Clem | editor in chief
Except for followers of Pittsburg State’s Twitter feed, recent visitors to the university’s website have seen a surprise.
Less is more
The entire front page and several closely related destinations were redone and reorganized over the last year, with a launch date of Monday, July 22.
This is part of a long-term project to update and streamline more than 30,000 pages of content, says Gregor Kalan.
“The reason we didn’t do a huge PR deal was because this is only the beginning,” said Kalan, director of web marketing. “There is a lot of content out there that needs to be redesigned.”
Sites across all campus servers will receive this treatment in phases over the next several years. This gradual, evolutionary plan is designed to rely first on community feedback, Kalan added.
“We need to look at the way we’re doing content, the way we’re writing each page,” he said.
The to-the-point, more minimalist approach to the new design is a lot easier to understand and causes a lot less user frustration, says Andrew Pretzer.
“I like that where it says ‘login,’ it doesn’t turn into a popup menu,” said Pretzer, senior in manufacturing engineering. “I’d always seem to miss that and have to try to get it to pop up five more times.”
Kalan says that the site’s approach to organization is to avoid the procedural, “first go here, then here, and now here, now login,” steps that have been criticized in the past.
A ‘carousel’ structure
One key solution, Kalan says, were drop-down menus, which concentrate many direct links in the same location.
These are still hidden out of immediate view when the user isn’t hovering over the associated interest area; an example would be “Learning at Pitt State,” which activates accessibility to “Honors College” and related institutions.
The most important articles and information of the day are also on display on a photographic, scrolling carousel.
It depicts up to five pictures and links at a time, and acts as a header over a simplified three-column structure.
The same organization is carried over to the site’s most prominent feature, a significantly larger feature photo space, which as before, may be loaded with several pictures that link to other content.
Micah McCready says that this image-centered arrangement is appealing.
“I really like the design, it is very eye-catching,” said McCready, senior in general studies. “The way they’re advertising their articles on there makes me more willing to read them. It’s a lot more organized and less cluttered than before.”
Kalan says that beyond visual and organizational goals, his team, which performed all of the work for the redesign in-house, wanted to be sure that the content will adapt to any device.
“If you’re on an iPad or a mobile device, the information will conform to that size and shape and all the content is going to be there,” he said.
Tyler Posterick says that is critical.
“I like that it is mobile friendly and scales well on my phone,” said Posterick, senior in commercial graphics. “It’s a simplistic, professional look, not trying to be too extravagant in its presentation of information.”
While the design philosophy of the overall project is somewhat similar to Canvas, the university’s learning management system, Kalan says that he’s building unique functionality and features into each new page.
“We weren’t wanting to be like Canvas … we wanted to make a good, engaging window,” he said. “You’ll see some similarities, but really every page and every website is kind of special in its own way.”