Mount Holyoke Launches New Web Site

Monday, June 12, 2006 - 11:42
Posted: June 12, 2006

After months of brainstorming, planning, designing, and testing, the College launched a new Web design today for the top-level MHC sites, including admission and athletics. In addition to the new Web design, new content has been written and a new Web tool, a content management system (CMS), has been implemented. The new Web design is more convenient not only for the users but for those who provide and maintain its contents.

Two considerations led to the Web revamping, according to Bill Denneen, MHC's director of Internet marketing, who, together with Theresa Chamberland of LITS, is co-project manager of CMS and the Web redesign project. First, with more people adding and updating material on the site, the College needs a system that can accommodate this increased traffic flow in a timely fashion. The new CMS streamlines the addition of information; when CMS content is updated, all pages throughout the site that reference that content will be updated automatically. So, for example, design changes can be applied to the entire site without having to change each page individually. The new system also allows for departments and divisions within the College to personalize their Web pages, while providing a standard College-wide design. Members of each division and department will be trained to use the new CMS so that they can revise and update their pages as needed. "I believe the College community will really like how user-friendly CMS is, and how quickly they'll be able to update their content," said Chamberland.

Second, enrollment data shows that prospective students get much of their information about colleges from the Internet; indeed, some young women apply to the College without ever having set foot on campus. The College wanted to redesign its Web site to communicate more effectively with visitors from outside the MHC community. In addition to gathering information and ideas from people on campus and professionals, the Web redesign team sought input from prospective students at different stages of the design process. Through face-to-face sessions and an online survey of 1,300 prospective students, "we got a ton of valuable insights into specific designs and what [students] expect from a college Web site," Denneen said.

LITS and the communications department worked together to design and implement the new system. According to Patricia VandenBerg, executive director of communications and strategic initiatives, the joint effort delivered the best of both worlds. "What we do at MHC is a good example of how it should be done. We collaborated from day one in terms of conceiving what we think would be most effective for users of our Web site." Before designing the new site, members of the design and implementation team researched how people are using the Web, how they devise searches, and what appeals to them in terms of writing style, colors, and design. The College then hired mStoner, a Web marketing firm specializing in higher education and content management systems, to help create a concept and strategy for the new site and to implement it. "Our design and writing staff did the creative work, and our IT people were brilliant in figuring out how to make it happen," VandenBerg said.

Patricia Albanese, chief information officer and Executive Director of LITS on the Katherine Johnson Hatcher Endowment, agreed that the introduction of CMS to the Web site "has been an excellent example of two strong teams working together, each perspective informing the other, to produce a fabulous result. The IT team researched the technical landscape of CMS and, incorporating the functional requirements of the design team, we arrived at a leading edge solution for the College. We feel very confident in our choice, as several other colleges have since taken our lead, choosing the same approach and vendor."

Over the next year, department and office sites will "migrate" (move) into CMS and the new Web design. The migration process will involve small-group workshops with Denneen and Chamberland to discuss navigation, layout options, and writing for the Web protocols. Those responsible for maintaining College sites will be trained at the appropriate time. Chamberland emphasized that no site will be redesigned and migrated without prior discussion and agreement.

If you have technical questions on June 13 regarding the launch, please contact the Help Desk at x2600.

If you have comments, questions, or concerns as the new launch moves forward, please email Bill x3160, or Theresa x2598.

Related Links:

Web (CMS) The Migration Process and Training

Web Guru Highlights MHC's New Virtual Tour