KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Western Michigan University's Web presence will take on a new look and enhanced usability with a dramatic revision of University websites set to go live July 28.
The most noticeable changes to wmich.edu and the pages that fall under it are screen-filling graphics, an abundance of white space and new typography. The new site also uses a carefully tailored approach to providing navigation that allows key audiences to quickly meet their needs and expectations.
"Visitors to the site will immediately notice significant changes to the look and feel, but we've changed a lot more than just the aesthetics," says Dan Lobelle, director of electronic communication who has led both the redesign effort and the Web infrastructure changes needed to make it a reality. "The design team has done great work on simplifying the navigation elements to guide visitors through the site, with emphasis on visual clarity and accessibility across the entire WMU Web presence."
About the redesign
The visual and navigational changes, he says, will automatically cascade down through all of the University's sites that are part of the WMU content management system—representing about 75 percent of all WMU websites.
Lobelle says research on best practices in higher education as well as corporate and nonprofit Web development was the starting point for the redesign. A commitment to responsive design that automatically provides users with an attractive and readable site for every type of device they use—from laptop to tablet and smartphone—also played a key role in the effort. WMU was among the first universities in the nation to incorporate responsive design, and recent developments to mobile use and technology have made that tool more important than ever.
Recent research done for WMU's ongoing marketing and student recruitment efforts played a major part in developing the type of messages and images prominent on the site. The new design was introduced to a number of campus leadership groups earlier this summer, and feedback from those groups helped refine some of language and navigation choices.
"This is Phase I of what has been designed as a process to continually improve the WMU Web presence," says Greg Rosine, vice president for government affairs and university relations who oversees efforts to maximize the Web's role in marketing and communication. "Our websites will evolve following a regular schedule of using feedback and metrics we've put in place to guide continued development. The changes will not all be as visual as this one, but each will allow us to incorporate changes informed by best practices and user metrics and feedback."
The Web design team
This is the first major design change for the WMU website since 2012, although significant changes to Web management and organization have occurred steadily since then.
In addition to Lobelle, principal members of the Web design team are Web Manager Bradley Horstman and Graphic Designer Debbi Kreps of the Office of University Relations and Alexander Aivars, Webmaster for the College of Education and Human Development who has been working with university relations staff for the past year.
For more news, arts and events, visit wmich.edu/news.