February 12, 2001
Tulane's countenance on the Web will soon be getting a facelift. For the past month, Rachel Hoormann, Web manager for university communications, has met with focus groups of core constituencies around campus as well as solicited feedback on the university's site through a survey form on Tulane's home page. That information is being used to plan a comprehensive redesign of the university Web site.
"I get a lot of feedback from people who visit the Web site, but some things are bigger than just fixing a link or changing the wording of a paragraph," says Hoormann. "It really needs a complete redesign. We're trying to improve navigation and make it easier for people to find what they need on the site."
The responses Hoormann has received range from the pointed-such as requests to add movie listings to the online calendar (she did that)-to the more nebulous, such as how to make the most sought-after sections of the site more accessible.
"I want to reduce the number of clicks it takes to get to information you really need," Hoormann says. "For example, to get to the registrar's Web site, you have to know that it's under administration, then you have to click again to get to a page that describes the office but still isn't the registrar's Web site. Most things are three to four clicks away from the home page. It's inefficient and frustrates people."
Another source of frustration is the site's search engine. Users looking for a particular section of the site or piece of information are often overwhelmed by results that bear little relation to the initial query. Hoormann attributes this to the volume of outdated documents on the server.
With the redesign, Hoormann hopes to move much of the old information off the server and create a new engine programmed to search for more up-to-date materials. The current version of the Web site, designed by local firm Bent Media, went online in January 2000. Utilizing a dynamic, database-driven format, the site attracts about 100,000 hits per month.
Hoormann says that after the home page, the most popular destinations are the phone directory, the search engine, and those sites dedicated to academics, admission, resources and the list of schools and colleges.
"The list of classes, the class schedule and the academic calendar are popular items that people can't find," Hoormann says. "We also want to make the list of schools and colleges easier to get to."
Hoormann is interested in enabling users to customize the home page to fit their needs. As with popular Web sites such as Yahoo! and Excite, users could log in to the Tulane Web site and choose the links they most often visit to be displayed on their own home page.
The idea fits Hoormann's desire to make the site more useful to Tulane faculty and staff, a very different audience from prospective students and their parents, and one with very different needs. Local design firm Studio Mundi is handling the visual redesign of the site, and local computer firm Orange Twine will oversee the programming and the conversion of the current pages to the new design.
"We're really trying to evolve the site rather than totally remake it, so there will be a lot of familiar elements both in the visual aspect as well as the navigation," Hoormann says.
While the user survey form is no longer on the home page, Hoormann emphasizes that the redesign is driven by the desire to make the site more useful to everyone. She encourages anyone with comments about the site or suggestions for the redesign to send feedback to her her at email@example.com.
Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000 firstname.lastname@example.org