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Homepage Facelift Start of College Web Site Makeover

Take a look at Franklin & Marshall’s new look on the Web.

The College’s newly redesigned home page went live August 25, the first step in an overall redesign of our Web site due to be completed in January.

The Office of College Communications partnered with F&M’s Information Technology Services to bring the design up to date and make it more focused and user-friendly.

Heading the redesign effort are Srirupa Dasgupta, director of Web content in College Communications, and John Romanski, director of Web services in Information Technology Services. They recently spoke to The Diplomat to talk about the redesign process.

Q: There was a Web “refresh” on August 25. What happened?

SD: We wanted to update the feel of the Franklin & Marshall home page. Although we’re working on a complete makeover, this was a temporary facelift. We updated the admission portion of the site. Before, it was hosted off campus and with this refresh we brought the site back to our servers and updated the content.

Q: Why change the old site?

JR: The F&M Web site has been largely unchanged since 2004. The campus has changed since then. The home page refresh was intended to show prospective students the college, with graphics and text that mirrored the new print materials that Admission has begun to use.

SD: The old site doesn’t accurately portray all that F&M is visually and otherwise. The site organization and navigation is not user-centric or intuitive and we wanted to improve that. And it doesn’t take advantage of the latest Web technology.

A complete redesign will change not just the look and feel, but also the internal structure of how the information is organized and maintained.

Q: Will it be easier to navigate the new site?

SD: Yes. Here’s how we’re making sure that happens. At the beginning of this process, we held focus groups to help us direct what change we needed to make. We get ongoing feedback from Admission, Advancement, faculty and the student body. We’re doing rigorous usability testing with alumni, prospective and current students, faculty and staff. And of course, we’re “walking through” the site ourselves to simulate the visitor experience.

Q: What will be unique about the site your team is developing that will attract prospective students?

SD: We want to use the Web not just to tell our story, but to engage visitors and alumni and build a virtual community. We want to find ways to tell our stories to highlight our point immediately. People scan Web sites and we only have maybe six seconds to get their attention. Once we have it, we’ll invite them to engage during that visit and encourage repeat visits. We must continually fine-tune the site by measuring visitor behavior and modifying content to make people come back, stay longer, visit campus, attend F&M events, give money to the College or come to school here.

Q: What’s next?

JR: Before January’s relaunch, all of the most-used pages on the site will be reconsidered and everyone will have a chance to weigh in on the content, focus and even to help out using some new software tools we are busy developing, testing and deploying.

For the redesign, we are also spending a lot of time on the little things that can add up to make big differences, like improving the accuracy of search results so it’s easier to find relevant content. We are augmenting search results to include event information, directory listings and even course descriptions from the course catalog. We are converting to a Web-standards-based layout for faster download speeds and creating alternate style sheets for mobile devices and printing Web pages.

For more information about the Web redevelopment project, go to http://redesign.fandm.edu. To visit Franklin & Marshall’s newly redesigned home page go to www.fandm.edu. And check out the new Admission pages by clicking on the “Admission” link on the home page. We hope you like what you see.