Visitors to Franklin & Marshall's website soon will experience a new look and feel when they arrive at fandm.edu. In December, the College will launch a new website offering more visual and dynamic content.
The new site is the culmination of a 20-month project to rebuild and redesign F&M's online presence to take advantage of advances in technology and to meet the evolving needs of users who often access the site on mobile devices.
"In this digital age, a college's website has become the most important vehicle for an institution introducing and presenting itself to the world," said Vice President for Communications Cass Cliatt, who has oversight of the redesign project. "The Franklin & Marshall site rebuild incorporates responsive design and creates a new presence for the College that aims to inspire, motivate and meet the needs of Franklin & Marshall's many constituencies."
The design of the current fandm.edu was completed in 2009 based on needs assessed two years earlier. While it continued to support many of the College's operations, the geographic diversity of students coming from across the nation and around the globe -- as well as changes in the ways students undertake their college search -- means that greater numbers of prospective students and their families rely on F&M's website to learn what the College has to offer.
The making of the new fandm.edu
The completion in 2013 of F&M's strategic planning process laid the foundation for a website redesign that reflects and supports the College's strategic priorities, Cliatt said. These goals include recruiting an extraordinary student body, supporting excellence in scholarship and teaching, and building engagement with alumni, among other objectives.
A Website Redesign Working Group (WRWG) composed of representatives from administrative and academic units across campus, as well as students, began work in April of 2013 to audit the existing website. The advisory group was charged with contributing insights for a site that would best represent what F&M has to offer to its many publics, while also meeting the needs of the campus community.
The WRWG conducted a national search for design firms and selected P'unk Avenue of Philadelphia to work with the offices of Communications and Information Technology Services (ITS) on the redesign and rebuild.
The redesign project not only provides new functionality and visual appeal to the College's website, but also reflects a complete overhaul and rebuild of content, according to F&M project managers working with the site developers.
"We started with a clean slate and two questions," said Jay Eckles, director of enterprise systems and web services in ITS. "How do we present the content so that it matches the expectations of the most common users -- prospective students and their families -- and what technology will deliver the information to devices people use now, but is flexible enough to adapt to changes over the next 10 years? We think we found answers to both those questions."
In addition to new responsive functionality, the new site presents information in more accessible ways, said Srirupa Dasgupta, director of web content and multimedia in the Office of Communications.
"Content on the current site that previously might have been duplicated from long-form print publications -- a common practice during earlier development of websites -- has been adapted to be more brief and visual for the way Web users today access information online," Dasgupta said.
The new approach is the outcome of an inclusive process that included stakeholder interviews with faculty, students, alumni and College leaders; a campuswide town hall meeting; focus groups with offices and departments; content workshops; "house calls" with academic and administrative units to share and refine the design direction; and work sessions with stakeholders across campus to finalize a new architecture for the website.
It was important that the new site reflect the findings of the Strategic Positioning Initiative the College undertook in the summer of 2011 that identified values and strengths of F&M that resonate with the College's constituents, Cliatt said.
"The new fandm.edu demonstrates the strength of our faculty scholarship and teaching, as well our rich campus life and the closeness of the communities our students build," she added. "As a campus community, we also ensured that the site reflects our commitment to ensuring that F&M launches our students to rich lives of meaning, and that our students feel they are part of the F&M family for life."