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F&M Kicks Off Website Redesign Project

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The project to redesign the Franklin & Marshall College website officially launched Nov. 5 with a kick-off meeting that established a timeline for the project and a schedule for engaging F&M's campus and extended community in designing a strong virtual presence for the College.

After spending the summer and early fall conducting a national search for a Web design firm, the faculty, students and professional staff composing the College's Website Redesign Working Group (WRWG) met with the contracted firm, P'unk Ave of Philadelphia, to confirm the goals of the redesign, as well as the schedule for a series of stakeholder interviews, surveys of prospective students, focus groups, and workshops that will be part of the research and design phase of the project. This includes an open meeting for the campus community, to be scheduled for January.

"In our technological age, a college's website is the single most important vehicle for an institution presenting itself to the world," said F&M Vice President for Communications Cass Cliatt, who convened and is the chair of the WRWG. "We aim to engage the community in creating a site for Franklin & Marshall that inspires, motivates and meets the needs of our many constituencies, with a focus on the primary users of any college website, prospective students."

Guiding principles for the website redesign include:

  • Creating a site whose architecture, navigation and features strongly position F&M as a top higher education institution among the College's external constituencies across the country and around the world
  • Ensuring the capacity of the site to showcase the strengths of the College, including the attributes of cultivating academic excellence, fostering supportive communities, and providing individualized attention that launch students to lives of making a difference
  • Ensuring the site is user-friendly for individuals without a substantial working knowledge of F&M -- especially the primary audience of prospective students -- while also serving the needs of current faculty, students and professional staff
  • Creating flexibility in templates and design that allow departments, offices and programs to express their identities, tailored to the audiences that most use the College's website
  • Increasing capacity for multimedia, integration with social media and interactive applications
  • Optimizing visits to the site by creating a homepage that makes accessible the information that the primary users seek out most often

"With the completion of F&M's strategic planning process, we have the opportunity to ensure the F&M website reflects and support the College's strategic priorities," Cliatt said. F&M's strategic priorities were endorsed by the faculty and approved by the Board of Trustees in spring 2013, and a summary of the priorities was shared with all faculty, professional staff, students and alumni in October.

According to a website redesign project timeline developed by P'unk Ave, the research, discovery, design and early development phases of the redesign are expected to be completed during this academic year. The discovery process with the campus community, alumni and the key target audience of prospective students is expected to proceed through January, with design presentations taking place in the new year, culminating with initial design approval in March.

The bulk of technical development and the migration of content from the existing website to the newly designed site is expected to continue through June, with work continuing into the next academic year for a launch in November 2014.

"This work is important for ensuring that the website can continue to serve as an effective tool in admission recruiting, and also serve as an ongoing resource for alumni engagement, as well as providing information to our students, faculty and professional staff who rely on the site every day," said Srirupa Dasgupta, co-chair of the redesign working group and director of Web content and multimedia in F&M's Office of College Communications.

F&M's current site is at the end of the typical life of a website, as changes in technology have established a best practice of refreshing a website or completing a wholesale redesign every two to four years, depending on existing functionality. The F&M website redesign was completed in 2009, based on a review of needs -- and available technology -- assessed at that time.

Throughout the website redesign process, the WRWG -- representing academic and administrative offices across campus -- will advise P'unk Ave, reinforcing the priorities of the College. A Web Redesign Implementation Team made up of staff from the offices of College Communications and Information Technology Services will perform the hands-on work of implementation.

F&M expects to keep, but upgrade, its existing content management system to allow a smooth transition to using the new site for the current academic and administrative offices that contribute content to the site and edit their respective Web pages. The cost of the redesign will be borne by College Communications, while Information Technology Services will manage ongoing technical support and maintenance after the launch of the new site.