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Homing in on a New Design

With the bulk of its research done and with a strategic plan in place, the group working to redesign Dartmouth's Web site is ready to move on to the design phase.

The "Home Team," made up of Sarah Horton, Rick Adams, and Martin Grant, has concluded a three-month process of research and evaluation of the current home page and has finalized a strategic plan for what will be the eighth version of the Dartmouth Web site. Dartmouth has had a presence on the World Wide Web since 1996.

The research phase included an online user survey, focus groups, user testing, analysis of Web server and search engine logs, expert review of peer institutions' sites, and review of current literature and other research about the state of the art in Web communication. The strategic plan resulting from that research is posted on the team's Web site (www.dartmouth.edu/~hometeam). Also posted to the Home Team site are the results of the user survey and research review highlights; soon to come will be the actual log analysis and notes from focus groups and user testing sessions.

"We received a tremendous amount of interesting and useful feedback, especially from the focus groups and user testing," says Horton. "Our thanks go to everyone who took part. They've given us a very solid base of information on which to design the new page."

Next up: actually putting the new site design together.

The team will begin to lay out the information architecture—how the information is presented on the page and how users navigate it—before working on the graphic design of the page. "One thing that we've heard loud and clear from users is that the home page needs to be easier to understand and navigate," says Grant. "One of our biggest challenges will be to serve a number of audiences with an architecture that is understandable, but appropriately represents the entire institution."

User feedback will continue to be a part of the process, and as the design progresses, iterations will be posted to the Home Team Web site. The team has also created a blog, where members will post additional information and personal observations about the process, and where members of the Dartmouth community can respond to blog postings. The blog also features an RSS feed, so that interested users can subscribe to updates on the project.

The Home Team will also be hosting a Web "Town Meeting" to review and discuss the project. The meeting will be held on Friday, May 5 at 3:30 p.m. in 105 Dartmouth Hall. Dartmouth students, faculty, staff, and alumni are invited to attend.

By RICK ADAMS

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Last Updated: 12/17/08