Re-vision, Re-align, and Re-design

We conducted separate focus groups with 70 participants, with each of the following audiences: current students, faculty, staff, parents, mixed group of high school students, parents, counselors, and high school seniors

Background

Initiated in 2008, the Web Site Redesign Project was a campuswide effort to re-envision and redesign the CSU, Chico Web site. Our goals were to improve site usability and organization, better meet the needs of users, reflect the brand of the University, create a consistent look and feel throughout the upper-level pages, and update the site through the use of new technology and best practices in Web site design.

Detailed reports for completed phases can be found at on the Web Content Committee Web page under Meeting Minutes.

Research and Analysis 

User surveys helped us identify motivations, frustrations, and preferences of our users. More than 17,000 e-mail survey invitations were sent to prospective students and their parents, current students, faculty, staff, administrators, alumni, and corporate partners. The survey link was also released through the media. A total of 1,253 responses were received from 12 different user groups.

We collected browser statistics to provide quantitative data concerning usage patterns for the CSU, Chico site. Google Analytics revealed the most commonly viewed pages, most common search terms, user characteristics, and specific user behavior. The click-tracking service Crazy Egg visually tracked the location and pattern of every click visitors made on selected pages in the site. Our site architects used this data to optimize site design and organization to best serve the needs of users.

We also conducted best practices research to reveal industry standards and effective practices regarding the structure, content, and organization of higher education Web sites. We used this research to identify trends in higher education Web development and visual design practices such as navigation and layout standards, page width, content type, photography size and ratio, video, and multimedia.

Site Structure 

Our site structure analysis included a detailed inventory of the then-current site and helped us establish page structure, navigation, content, and features for second- and third-level pages on the new site. Effectiveness of structure and content were tested in focus groups, and relevant content was confirmed by stakeholder meetings.

Focus Groups and Stakeholder Discussion Groups

To improve the content and provide appropriate information for each audience, we conducted separate focus groups with 70 participants, with each of the following audiences: current students, faculty, staff, parents, mixed group of high school students, parents, counselors, and high school seniors.

Discussions with 55 participants, each knowledgeable in specific areas, ran July 2–16, with one meeting per page. E-mail follow-ups were conducted with the participants of the student life group.

Visual Design and Content

In the visual design and content phase, we designed a visual look and feel and created a navigation system, testing both with focus groups. Once the final design was chosen, it was applied to additional pages.

Four design directions were developed, and the University’s creative director designed a new identification graphic. Both were approved by the Web Management Committee.

A matrix was created, and we held focus groups with current students, prospective students and their parents, and the Web Content Committee. The groups were asked to rate each design on general appearance, ease of locating the navigation, how the design reflects on the University, and overall impression. They were asked to write down a key word that described the design. Rating the designs was followed with an open forum. At the end of each session, participants were asked to put a star next to their favorite design.

One design scored consistently higher in all four categories and also received 64 percent of the popular vote. There were minor adjustments made to help improve navigation and hierarchy before submitting the design to the Web Management Committee for final approval.

Implementation

During the Implementation phase, we established technical standards and site functionality in our Web Content Management System. We built page templates and added content to the site. We also conducted browser testing and a usability study. The site was proofed for content, visual consistency, accuracy, and technical standards.

Tips for Using the New Home Page

View our Tips page for a quick list of tips for finding what you need on the new site.

Before and After images of the Chico State Web site
Before and After images of the Chico State Web site