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McGill is redesigning the look of its website and over the summer will be putting finishing touches on a new, more modern, more flexible and more informative site design. McGill Communications and the Web Service Group (WSG) are working together on the redesign project, consulting with deans, professors, students and other users, as well as site managers and McGill people closely involved with the website to develop a design that will serve the ever-expanding needs of the community and site visitors.
It is a mammoth undertaking that began more than a year ago at the instigation of now-Provost Anthony Masi and the office of the Associate Vice-Principal (Communications).
Behind the home page and the nine top-level section pages, the McGill website consists of 25,000 pages in 500 subsites. It includes all frontline administrative web pages, the majority of faculty websites, and dozens of departmental sites.
The last time the site was redesigned as extensively was in 2002. In web years, that's an eternity.
McGill's website is our welcome to the world, our interface with regular users and first-time visitors, as well as an essential information resource for members of the McGill community, prospective students, faculty and staff, partners and prospective partners, members of the media, business community and government, researchers and colleagues at other universities, members of the public — all looking for a quick, easy route to the information that is relevant to them. The challenge for the home page is to provide a gateway to information sought, and to present an image of McGill, its people and activities that is engaging, informative and accurate.
Heading the redesign team are Susan Murley, Director of Special Projects in the office of the AVP (Communications), WSG manager Karl Jarosiewicz and WSG designer Eric Smith. The design is a work-in-progress but already, the new look provides more information and flexibility than the current site, is more attractive and less cluttered and has a distinctive McGill feel. Included in the new look is a new Welcome-to-McGill section, a permanent giving-to-McGill box, announcements for the community and tools to customize the site to individual needs.
Over the past few months, Murley and Jarosiewicz consulted with 15 individual users (students, faculty, staff, external audiences) on the proposed design, University committees including the Academic Planning Group, the Senate Committee on Information Systems and Technology, IT directors, deans and other senior administrators. Consultations and website testing will continue this summer.
The consultations are paying off — there are some clear patterns in what people like or dislike. The design has changed several times, and could evolve again before a final concept is developed.
In addition to redesigning the site and tightening up the organization of information, WSG staff members are building new templates and style sheets that will give web editors across the University more flexibility in how they create their pages. Information sessions will be held over the summer.
In addition to its many new-improved features, the new design will also be more accessible to users with disabilities. McGill's site is already one of the most accessible on the Canadian university scene, and we will continue to lead in that respect.
If all goes well, the redesign is scheduled to be launched over the summer. Phase 2 in September will produce a badly needed overhaul of the search function that will integrate Google and vastly improve how search results are displayed. Also targeted for improvement are the maps and professor-pages, resources for web editors, and the databases that manage news, events and announcements. We are also launching a project to examine how we can use interactive elements such as blogs.