Ford School Website Redesign
June 12, 2012
Welcome to the Ford School’s newly refreshed website! This cosmetic refresh is just the first step in a two-part web overhaul project. Take a quick survey to let us know what you think of the refresh and keep reading to learn more about the future of the Ford School’s web presence.
[Note: When the refreshed site launches, a few important files on our web server will be updated. Some web browsers store old versions of these files on your own computer in cache, which means that after the refreshed site is launched the site may look strange as it loads new files from the Ford School’s server and from your computer at the same time. If this happens, clearing the cache or refreshing the browser a few times should take care of any oddities.]
About our school and current website
Our website is the most widely read Ford School publication with 305,000 visits, 163,000 unique visitors, and 949,000 page views each year. It reaches multiple audiences, including: prospective and current students, staff, faculty, alumni, donors, friends, employers, policymakers, researchers, media professionals, governmental officials, interested citizens, and more. The Ford School’s website serves multiple purposes including, but not limited to: a recruiting tool for prospective students, a resource for policymakers and media to connect with policy experts, a repository of course information for current students and faculty, and an integrated event calendar for the Ford School and its affiliated centers.
The Ford School has changed a great deal since our website launched in 2005: a new building, a new BA program, more faculty and staff, greater visibility on campus and in the policy world. The development and application of new technology and media strategies (including social media) have also changed. Though we have built a variety of dynamic modules into the current site (such as the video and podcast libraries, integrated events calendar, CMS-based news and faculty/student profile pages), the site is due for a major reworking of its navigation, design, and how our audiences interact with the content.
In two phases, the Ford School Communications and Outreach team will lead a whole-school effort to upgrade our web presence to better support its current content, fully adapt to mobile/web platforms, and have a more intuitive and efficient site. The graphic design of the site must also be updated to match other Ford School communications and marketing materials and U-M branding guidelines.
This project began in March 2012 and will end in mid 2014.
Phase 2: full site redesign
To Be Completed: mid-2014
What will happen during this phase?
- The Ford School will select a vendor to ensure that the highest standards of usability, functionality, and technologies are met.
- Detailed discussions will be conducted with major site users: prospective students, current students, alumni, faculty, staff, donors, community members at large, and more. Suggestions from these meetings will help us focus the re-organization of the site's content.
- The vendor will create a detailed plan for a responsive design for the Ford School website with multiple iterations to ensure that design specifications are met. This design will be applied to versions for smartphones as well as tablets.
- Current content will be updated and new content will be added and migrated to the Drupal content management system that will be used for the site.
What is the outcome?
- A brand-new, next-generation, completely dynamic web and mobile presence using an integrated content management system (CMS). This will change the content and navigation, design, and underlying technology. Significantly, it will also reflect newly generated messaging and audience considerations in alignment with the larger advancement goals.
Phase 1: cosmetic refresh
Completed: May 31, 2012
What happened during this phase?
- The homepage changed dramatically with more photos, more dynamic features, and new shapes, color scheme, header, and footer.
- All other pages retained their shape and dynamic functionality, but look significantly different (as a result of the new color scheme, photos, headers, and footer).
- The underlying site architecture and navigation did not change.
- The functionality of our events calendar and the databases for courses, faculty, staff, and students did not change, nor did features such as the global careers map.
- Focus groups were conducted with Ford School audiences of students, faculty, and staff to determine the most useful elements of the site, what elements might be missing, and some general thoughts about the site. This information was used for the phase 1 redesign and will be used to craft the more detailed and wider-ranging focus groups (e.g. alums, prospective students, etc.) of phase 2.
- Phase 1 mirrored the web redesign process for the U-M Gateway: while undertaking the extensive process of a full website redesign (which can take over a year), the Office of the Vice President for Communications gave the Gateway (www.umich.edu) a cosmetic refresh.
We welcome your feedback: please send questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or complete this brief survey to tell us what you think about the phase 1 refresh. Also, check back often as we will post progress updates and ask for help with plans for phase 2.