Campus Community Invited to Preview New UA Home Page

Campus Community Invited to Preview New UA Home Page

By Jeff HarrisonUniversity Communications
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The UA's home page in 1997.
The UA's home page in 1997.
The UA's home page in 2002.
The UA's home page in 2002.
The redesigned UA home page.
The redesigned UA home page.

Members of the campus community are invited to take a sneak peek at the newly redesigned University of Arizona home page.

"I think it's important for people to realize this isn't just a cosmetic change, that it is really a dramatic overhaul," said Kate Jensen, UA assistant vice president for marketing, who is leading the redesign project.

"The site had not been redesigned in a fundamental way in a very long time," Jensen said. "This was the first time the University was able to put some money into figuring out how this whole thing should work.

Aside from getting a facelift, the new site will have more people contributing to its content.

"We knew that one tiny office (marketing) couldn't meet all of those needs, so the structure of the site needed to change," Jensen said. "We've taken a site that was managed by a very small group of people and disbursed the management of the site across campus."

The major improvement in the new site, Jensen said, will be shifting responsibility and authority for managing the "top tier" areas to the parts of campus whose constituents rely most on the information. The new site also will be easier to navigate so that users can find the information they're seeking more quickly.

The top five tiers on the new site are students, prospective students, faculty and staff, alumni and donors, and business and industry. Twelve groups with more than 100 people from throughout campus have been working on the new site, some of whom will have responsibility for managing new pages. The site will include a "better front door" for diversity and outreach.

The site was designed by Archetype 5 of Boulder, Colo., and Tucson. University Information Technology Services was an important part of the project design team, Jensen said. Jason Howard, a UA alumnus, heads the firm.

"Jason is connected to the UA and knows about the decentralized nature of the campus and how that would impact site design," Jensen said. "We told him what we wanted the site to communicate, and that it needed to showcase the UA as a premier public research university. We're very pleased with the design they developed."

Other Web sites, including university sites, were used as benchmarks. Jensen said focus groups were shown a variety of sites, starting with the UA's. The groups initially gave the UA favorable marks.

"As we showed other sites, the score for ours started to go down," Jensen said. "So, the design clearly had to be freshened up. You just can't let a site be there for four years.  Design moves and you need to move with it. But it's a much bigger project than just new colors."

Jensen said the campus preview of the site is the next step in the process before it goes "live" sometime this fall.

"We did a lot of research at the beginning, and we've been down in the trenches developing content and building the site. We'll do the usability testing in the next month," she said. 

Jensen called managing quality control for the site "new territory for us."

This will be the UA's seventh home page, going back to 1994. Jensen said she didn't know how long the UA plans to keep the new site before the next redesign.

"The site is probably going to evolve. I don't know how long it will take but would guess two years. The next time we do this it's going to be easier because this one took a lot of digging out."

Jensen said she wants as many people on campus as possible to preview the site.

"We hope they do because we aren't going to meet everyone's needs, but if we miss something big, we want to know about it," she said.

A few areas aren't finished, including a smarter search function, maps and the list of departments and colleges.

Campus maps are being completely redone to make it easier for people to find their way around campus. The new campus map will be built around Google Maps, and will include many features that visitors are used to having in a modern online mapping system.

"We've taken a look at a lot of the information that is currently being requested from the existing site and tried to take a step back to organize the new site in a way to get users to what they're looking for as quickly as possible," said Scott Fiddelke, the Web manager for External Relations.

Behind the scenes, there has been a change in the way the site's content is handled.

"The new site is built using the Drupal content management system," Fiddelke said. "So in addition to a fresh coat of paint, the entire infrastructure of the site has changed, both technically and in the content organization.

"Going with a content management system will allow us to extend the site in the future, and plug into other technology initiatives on campus. It positions the site to expand and evolve along with the technology landscape at the University," said Fiddelke, who has been working on the technical aspects of the redesign.

Take a look at the redesigned site by visiting Access will only be available to computers connected to the UA network.

To offer feedback, visit

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