June 6, 2005
New Emory home page makes flashy debut
BY Katherine Baust
Emory’s Web site has undergone a facelift. More than a year in the making, the new look went live on May 17, the day after Commencement. The redesign was headed up by John Mills, executive web producer in the office of University Marketing Communications, who said the intent was to make the website more usable, more appealing and more up-to-date.
The old design served well for more than five years, which is ancient as Web sites go. The new site, created by freelance developer Steve Carlson and graphic designer Erika Taguchi, will better expose the wealth of resources available through Emory’s Web. A total of 98 pages were included in the redesign.
The goal was to develop an interface that more strongly represents the “real Emory”—a world-class, top 20 research university situated in a stately suburb near Atlanta’s hub, Mills said.
“In the last few decades, Emory really has risen to become an international destination for the best scholars, researchers, teachers, staff and health care professionals,” Mills said. “But Emory hasn’t had the benefit of many more decades—hundreds of years in some cases—that Ivy League schools have had to market themselves as world-class institutions. Now more than ever, Emory deserves a Web site that’s as good as, and hopefully better than, our peer institutions’ sites.”
Emory’s new look needed to reflect those realities, and at the same time point Web users intuitively and quickly to information. It also needed to fit into a growing family of designs already established by the Woodruff Health Sciences Center site and the School of Public Health site, both created by Carlson and Taguchi.
Toward those goals, the home pages now provide a simplified navigation structure. The confusing clutter of links on the old site has been consolidated into Flash-based “flyout” menus that contain most of the same direct links as before. The links on the home pages are organized by utility, topic and audience, independent of the University’s internal organization.
“Most visitors don’t know and don’t care what division of the University their resource falls under,” Mills said, “They just want the information, and they want it five minutes ago. However they choose to look for it, we want to make sure they can find that information.”
The second-tier pages also carry all the same “global” navigation as the home page, making it possible to jump easily between major sections without returning to the home page. A search engine and site map ensure multiple ways of finding nearly anything, anywhere on Emory’s Web.
While transparent to users, the technical underpinnings have changed radically, too. XML paired with ColdFusion now builds pages “on-the-fly” as they are viewed, and keeps separate the information, navigation structure and graphic design, allowing webmasters to make sweeping changes quickly.
“The site is still being refined to meet the needs of various audiences and user bases, and a second phase of development will add better administration and automation tools,” Mills said. “We’re hearing from a lot of internal folks who over five years have grown very familiar with the location of links on the old home pages. Some are truly upset at the sudden change. But once we show them where their link was moved, or work with them to accommodate their unit’s niche in the site navigation, they seem satisfied with the new look.”