Visitors to Kansas State University’s online home page may have noticed an overhaul of the website’s layout after the Division of Communications and Marketing’s web team rolled out the home page’s new design June 8.
Neil Erdwien, web services director for K-State’s Division of Communications and Marketing, said there were several reasons for the redesign.
“One is just to give it a fresher, more visual, more inviting look,” Erdwien said.
Erdwien said the new home page also incorporates responsive design, in which the webpage adapts to fit the user’s screen size or device. Previously, the home page had a mobile link at the bottom for visitors using mobile devices.
“That was common back when we did the previous home page, but now pages are coded such that they adapt their width based on the device you’re looking at it in, so you don’t have to follow a link to a different page,” Erdwien said.
Janelle Corkill, web specialist for K-State’s Division of Communications and Marketing, said the web team focused on usability. The team traveled to high schools and asked individuals to perform various tasks on different devices to determine the usability of the university’s website. One specific change involved simplifying the home page’s menus.
“Our dropdowns changed from an all-inclusive, everything has to be here, to being a friendlier, more usable preview of links,” Corkill said. “The goal of the website, from our perspective, isn’t necessarily to answer every single minute question, but to give visitors the majority of information they need and to give them the entrance to connect with the department they need. It’s meant to be that first experience.”
Corkill said the web team also incorporated several modern design elements into the new home page.
“A lot of sites have trended toward larger imagery, what we call a ‘layered’ site design, where if you scroll down, things are horizontally layered,” Corkill said. “Lots of open space and clean content.”
Erdwien said the coding for the redesigned website began about six months ago, but the entire process of updating the home page started in late 2015. The process included talking to K-State’s Faculty Senate, the Student Governing Association, the University Support Staff Senate, President Richard Myers’ cabinet and usability studies.
Corkill said the purpose of talking with those groups was not necessarily to gain opinions but to determine how to improve the site’s usability.
“The areas where we probably got the most direct input is where we talked to the stakeholders in the main navigation items, like [the Office of] Student Life, Academics, Research and Extension,” Corkill said. “We talked to those stakeholders to get [things] clear not just with [our] thoughts, but also with our analytics, as well as the K-State 2025 goals of their units.”
According to a June 8 K-State Today article, the launch of the redesigned home page coincided with the start of summer orientation and enrollment.
Corkill said reception of the new home page was largely positive.
“We’ve had a few people who liked things where they were, and it’s a little bit hard to change,” Corkill said. “By and large, the navigation across the top has remained fairly consistent to most things that have moved even just a little bit. They’re still easy to find, and we’ve been able to manage many of those comments just by helping them look at our transition guide.”
The web team’s next few projects will include assisting the university’s departments in updating the headers and footers of individual webpages to match the new home page and updating the software underlying the university’s calendar system.
Erdwien said a university’s home page is often the first impression a university leaves on prospective students.
“I think it’s one of the front doors of the university,” Erdwien said. “It’s often, for prospective students, one of the first things they look at. If they are trying to learn more, starting at the university home page is a good first start. It sets the tone and expectations.”
Corkill said the university’s home page is a part of K-State’s identity.
“There are lots of folks who come to the university website,” Corkill said. “It’s meant to give them a taste of what K-State is, and we do our best to answer their questions.”