An unfamiliar sight greeted visitors of www.knox.edu early this month. According to its instigators, the web page redesign, a long and complex process, now more accurately reflects the college.
The site was long overdue for a face-lift, said Director of Public Relations Karrie Heartlein, noting that most school websites update about every four years.
“It was definitely time,” said Heartlein, who went on to state that in the recent past the web page has been as effective in terms of recruitment, if not more so, than paper publications.
“Over the past six or seven years, the website has become more and more the primary marketing vehicle for the college.”
The seed was planted roughly two years ago when the Lawlor Group, a higher education marketing firm performed a “needs assessment” at Knox. The firm concluded that the website needed an update.
“Lawlor created general designs and we picked out pieces we thought worked best,” said Heartlein.
A team comprised of members from across campus continues to meet weekly to discuss the redesign, but students also played a large role in determining the new digital face of the college. Sean Reidel, Associate Director of Web & New Media Services, wrote a blog where he encouraged feedback.
“We had at least 20 to 30 comments on any one post,” said Reidel.
Faculty, staff, and students all contributed to the redesign process.
“There needed to be transparency. You needed to see yourself in it. A lot of people felt like the old site ‘wasn’t really their college,’” said Reidel of the design process.
Aesthetically, the new design contains a human element that was lacking on the old site, according to both Heartlein and Reidel.
“We wanted to show Knox rather than tell about it,” said Reidel. “There’s much more active and vibrant photography,” he added, noting that student and faculty photography now play a big role in the college’s image.
“There are more faces now,” said Karrie Heartlein. Some students agree with Heartlein.
“I really like all the current photos,” said junior Noel Sherrard.
The look of the website was not the only consideration during the redesign.
“We built the concept from the ground up,” said Reidel, acknowledging the Ingeniux Corporation and website traffic statistics gathered from Google Analytics as the primary contributors in building “wireframes” or architecture for each page of the website.
“We looked where traffic was going and where we wanted it to go,” said Reidel.
“It’s much more intuitive,” said Heartlein.
However, some Knox students disagree, finding the new site difficult to navigate and unpleasant visually.
“It’s way confusing and doesn’t look as good,” said senior Maddie Freeman.
“It feels like every other college website now,” said senior Jasmin Tomlins. “I was first attracted to Knox because the website was different.”
Sean Reidel responded, “We are a college website and there are certain things every college website wants to convey.”
As for the confusion many students felt when the redesign went live in early September, Reidel and Heartlein both predict such discomforts will soon subside.
“We’re creatures of habit and everything is a cultural change,” said Reidel.
“Over the long run, it’s easier to use and more enjoyable,” added Heartlein. “We’ve just gotten used to those little inconveniences [on the old site].”
The redesign is an ongoing process, according to Reidel, who looks forward to continuously updating the site with video and new technology.
“Our biggest goal coming out of the gate was agility,” said Reidel, who believes the new site has equipped the college to “react and move to accommodate our visions.”
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“We’re always sensitive to people’s feedback and if you can’t find something, we’ll help you find it” – Reidel