Following consultation with staff and students, and nearly nine months of work we launched the new website design for the University of St Andrews during the early evening of Monday (8 September).
Unlike the website launch in May 2007, which combined for the first time all 27 of the support unit websites into one enterprise-wide site, this re-launch was more of a design update than a radical restructuring of information.
Back in February 2008 we meet over the course of three lunchtimes with both staff and students to elicit feedback on what people
- thought was missing (both information and features)
Those sessions were very helpful, and feedback from those were thrown into a melting pot of ideas that had also been compiled from Helpdesk calls received since the launch of the new site in May 2007, as well as our own thoughts and observations from using the site for nearly a year (remember, we had access to it for a few before it went public).
Our redesign goals were quite clear:
- Make the site easier to read
- Offer more variety/flexibility in terms of layout, e.g. 2, 3 and 4 column
- Ensure that it works in more browsers
- Add new functionality
On the whole we’ve managed to achieve this, and the feedback during the last month when the site was quietly released to staff and students within a closed preview has been very positive.
The techie bit
When designing and building a new site you have to decide from the start which technologies you will definitely support and which you will try to break as least as possible.
We’ve built the site around a grid-based CSS framework called Blueprint CSS, which offers us a number of advantages such as ensuring that the site is built using accepted Web standards, a well-designed and attractive typography. It also makes it painlessly simple to develop new site designs and layouts.
Speaking of browsers, based on statistics gathered by our Google Analytics account as well as Yahoo!’s guidelines for Graded Browser Support we settled on ensuring that the latest browsers received the best experience possible. This included:
- Firefox 2.0
- Firefox 3.0
- Internet Explorer 6
- Internet Explorer 7
- Opera 9.x
- Safari 3.x
We tested the site back to Firefox 1.0, Internet Explorer 5.0, OPera 7.5 and Netscape Navigator 7.0, with varying degrees of success. On the whole though the site is still usable in these older browsers, even if it doesn’t look exactly as it does in a modern, standards-compliant browser.
Going live with a site is a strange experience of mixed emotions. There’s a combination of both elation that the site is going live, mixed with a little anti-climax and the nervousness of waiting for support calls to come in, hoping that we haven’t missed anything obvious.
On the whole, as a Web Team we’re really pleased with the results and the encouraging feedback that we’ve had from users, but we won’t stop there … there’s much still to be done, content to be improved on, sections to be reorganised and even more features to be added.