You've submitted many questions with regards to the Program, with particular emphasis on how the changes to the homepage and WMS will affect your day-to-day activities.
Please find below a list of answers to these questions. This list will be updated periodically, so we encourage you to continue sending us your feedback and to check back for more answers as the Program progresses:
The Web Evolution Program
The service is evolving: in addition to the WMS, there will be space for non-WMS special projects to be housed securely at McGill.
The WMS will also continue to evolve to meet the needs of the community and of communications.
Yes, we are currently working on defining website standards and guidelines to create a collective web environment, and simplify the user's experience.
We hope that communicating these new guidelines to decision-makers and Site Administrators/Managers will facilitate the strategic development of the website as a whole.
Maintaining a high-quality website also depends on access to high-quality photography. We're still committed to sharing the photography we have, and hope to find new ways to improve access to McGill photos.
How will the evolution of the WMS affect my ability to update my website? Will I require new training to use it effectively?
We'll share announcements regarding new tools and services related to the Web Evolution Program in our existing channels:
- Community presentations
- Working with super users/beta testers closely to get initial examples live
- We will also investigate adding additional training resources if the need arises
These new tools and services will supplement existing tools and services in the WMS.
Your recent updates and improvements are a stepping stone in the continuous improvement of your site!
We are aware that it can be confusing to know who to ask when you need help with your website, which is why we are currently streamlining our processes to ensure you won't have to guess where to go for the appropriate support.
In the meantime, please continue to use the channels you've used in the past.
Will the program and course search features differ from, interface with, or replace the Undergraduate Admissions site and/the ecalendar?
If all goes well with the rollout of the new search tool (provided by an external vendor), the underlying technology behind the homepage search would also power these other, more specific search engines. That way, all sites and users can benefit from improvements (and avoid the duplicate effort of maintaining multiple search tools).
The McGill Homepage
Our goal is that homepage content be managed based on the university's branding and communications strategy as a whole. The content will, in general, be defined by the homepage's "mission”:
- communicate our brand, values, research strengths and impacts
- encourage any visitor to find and engage with the McGill content most relevant to their needs
- orient prospective members of the McGill community and help them imagine whether McGill would be a good fit
The Homepage Redesign project will result in a single McGill homepage.
Analytics showed that the Faculty & Staff and Student homepages were rarely used.
Announcements targeting these audiences can be more effectively promoted through other means, including in newsletters, Channels, and social media.
The homepage will have a very limited content set that will prioritize serving the communications strategy of the institution as a whole.
We will, however, continue to respect critical workflows from the homepage (ex. accessing email, search, etc.) that serve a variety of audiences, including internal ones.
Faculty and department webpages should focus on ensuring easy access to content that's most important to site users, and on making sure that content is always up to date.
Usability tests, in addition to other data we’ve collected on the homepage suggests that, in its current format, the homepage may not be the most effective way of promoting announcements.
Other methods of promoting your announcements might yield better results, including:
- SEO practices
- Social media
- Online advertising
We plan to scale the design elements across WMS sites in order to create more continuity with the new homepage and the existing brand. This means that the look and feel of your site will evolve alongside the new homepage.
The evolution of your site (and the homepage) will also depend on the results of the rebranding exercise, which should be clearer in the spring of 2019. At that point, we'll be making sure that the look of all sites is aligned with the new McGill branding assets.
The search feature was a recurring theme in our discovery phase, and was already a priority for the Web Services Group. We're moving forward with a completely new search system that will be more powerful and adaptable.
Will recommended links in the search field be updated regularly? Which events will make it into that space?
Yes, they will be updated regularly.
Items in that space will be determined based on the university’s communications landscape and priorities. In concrete terms, Communications and External Relations (CER) is working to become a resource for units developing and executing communications plans surrounding important initiatives /events. This will allow us to anticipate and feature content in a way that is more transparent, more consistent with university priorities, and aligned with all the other communications aside from the homepage. As an extension of CER, Digital Communications will help by using data to determine what will perform well in a given space, with the goal of maximizing impact and engagement.
How will search categories be introduced and how will Site Managers/Admins know how to select categories for their content?
The majority of the categories featured in the search wireframe already exist as content types in the current WMS. We will be making some refinements, but the most important consideration will be how site managers create, tag, and publish content. This is critical to helping the search tool deliver the most relevant material and provide the best performance when users are browsing and sorting results.
If all goes well with the rollout of the new search tool (provided by an external vendor), the technology behind the homepage search would also power these other, more specific search engines. That way, all sites and users can benefit from continued updates and improvements to the tool.
Which events will make it into the Recommended now area of the site? Should these events be sent to us from the community?
Content on the homepage, including in "Recommended," will be determined based on the university’s communications landscape and priorities. Communications and External Relations (CER) is working to become a resource for units developing and executing communications plans surrounding important initiatives/events. This will allow us to anticipate and feature content in a way that is more transparent, more consistent with university priorities, and aligned with all the other communications aside from the homepage. As an extension of CER, Digital Communications will help by using data to determine what will perform well in a given space, with the goal of maximizing impact and engagement.
What about long-term strategic priorities? How does the website keep some of the large portfolios front and center?
Our goal is to support connections between homepage content and McGill's overarching priorities and activities. However, our approach on the homepage will be to take a strategic rather than news-driven approach, since this will do a better job introducing McGill's strengths and priorities to new audiences. (We learned in the Discovery Phase that news content did not perform as well as we expected on the homepage.)
With this in mind, homepage content about our strategic priorities will link back to sites and services that are designed to provide a better overall experience for this type of content, including presenting collections of stories around important topics. This is the focus of our planned updates to Channels (our next major project after the homepage redesign).
The link to my department/unit is being removed from the homepage. How will users know where to find us?
Based on the data we have about how the current homepage works, and the opportunities that exist for the new homepage, this project focuses on the needs of prospective members of the community. Links to specific departments, units and resources may not be useful for them at the level of the homepage, although they may become more interested in this type of information as they progress in their relationship with McGill. People who are already part of the McGill community tend to develop habits in terms of where they find their resources and services.
To support this existing use case, we identified the links that McGill users click most from the existing homepage and have added these to a menu lower on the page, organized by audience type (Current Students, Faculty & Staff, Alumni). If you have data to support the fact that your unit’s homepage link is critical for external audiences or is a primary entry point for members of the McGill community, please contact us using the form below. We can combine that information with the data we’ve collected so far about homepage use, institutional priorities, and user journeys in order to suggest ways to promote awareness of and access to your services.
Why does the homepage have to target such a well-defined audience (prospective members of our community, particularly prospective students)?
To summarize, this decision was based on data about who uses the current homepage, the current and potential use-cases for the homepage, and a thorough discussion of how to leverage the homepage space to best serve institutional priorities and support the needs of the diverse units at and affiliated with McGill. The process we used to arrive at this orientation, and the detailed results, are available in the Discovery Phase documentation. Beyond that defined segment of the homepage audience, needs and interests are diverse. With that in mind, we wanted the homepage as a whole to build an understanding of our brand that would encourage diverse users to search, browse, or explore to find specific content of interest.
The messaging on the homepage is closely connected to the strategic priorities and brand values – see the Discovery Phase documentation for more information about the project character and our process for identifying the brand values communicated on the homepage. Given the diversity of McGill’s activities, we created a structure that meets our objectives (presenting our brand, telling our stories) while allowing the actual content to vary in response to internal priorities and external events.
In the Discovery Phase, we determined that engagement with news and events on the homepage was low. Since news and events are an important part of our communications landscape, we have decided that our next project will be to invest in tools that will improve access, presentation, and engagement with this type of content (likely through an overhaul of the existing Channels news and events functionality). We did maintain links to news and events on the homepage, since we still want users to be able to easily find this content.
The choice to feature the city of Montreal on the homepage is in direct response to market research. The fact that the university is located in the city of Montreal appears to be something that people consider to be memorable and distinctive about McGill. However, it’s important to note that we’re heavily revising the menu based on user testing feedback, so the name and arrangement of this navigation category will change.
The tagline used is based on our existing communications and promotions and was chosen in close collaboration with CER leadership. We expect to launch with this or with something similar, but this area is easy to edit. (We can certainly update the phrase as needed to communicate the McGill mission and brand.) Longer-term, the text here is very likely change as we redefine the brand.
We were lucky to have a rather diverse group of Dawson students participate in our testing (continuing education, international, studied in US and returning to Canada, francophone from outside Montreal, etc.) and the ability to interview them in-person gave us some rich insight into their experience overall.
The goal of the testing was to identify opportunities to better align with the needs of prospective student in general and to validate decisions made on other research and interviews, so this sample was more than sufficient to identify overarching trends and concerns. The testing activity yielded data to help us make immediate improvements and helped us identify areas to investigate further with certain audience segments whose needs might have been under-represented in this activity. Post-launch, we’ll be able to get more data from a more diverse user pool via analytics; based on this, we can identify other testing activities and participant profiles that will help us improve the homepage even further.
We worked hard to follow universal design principles that improve accessibility for a broad spectrum of users and devices. We also plan to test the homepage with the Office for Students with Disabilities to ensure that the site is truly accessible before launch. This is something we’ll continue to monitor post-launch.
Yes—it will be the same in French and in English.