While it hasn’t been as conspicuous as most construction jobs, a major building project has been under way on the Florida Gulf Coast University campus for the past 2 ½ years. On March 1, FGCU will unveil a preview of the state-of-the-art structure: the university’s redesigned, reorganized and revitalized website.
Faculty, staff and students as well as online visitors can explore some of the top-level pages and provide feedback on the new site during the soft launch. It’s the first phase of a project that commenced in September 2015, when the Website Redesign Advisory Committee began meeting to determine what the university needed to bring its web presence up to date and how to bring that about.
Users will see a dramatically different style, one that is modern, engaging, mobile friendly and designed to appeal to the FGCU community as well as prospective students and others who want to learn more about the university.
“The FGCU website is the electronic front door of Florida Gulf Coast University, and is increasingly recognized as one of the principal marketing opportunities for the university to tell its great story,” says Chris Simoneau, vice president for Advancement and project sponsor.
“Our new site will enable FGCU to share the impact that it is making in the community, showcase the work of our students and faculty, and engage prospective students who would like to study in our great environment. It will be dynamic, energetic, creative and inspiring – all the things that also represent the university itself. We have many wonderful stories to tell, and the new website will provide the platform to engage with our communities.”
The first phase officially launches Monday, April 2 and includes the homepage and top-level sections such as About, Admissions, Academics, Student Life, The FGCU Effect and Community and Culture. Additional sections of the site will launch gradually as they are redeveloped in the new format. In the meantime, the new and old portions will function together, with the new header and footer on all pages for navigation continuity.
The new site is the result of thousands of hours of work by the website design team within University Marketing & Communications – Jeff Garner, director of Digital Communications; Gabriel Rodriguez, web developer; and Michael Rechkemmer, associate web developer. A team of veteran writers led by Drew Sterwald, the editor of Digital Communications, updated web text and refined messaging.
The team collaborated with dozens of stakeholders from across the university and transformed the original site with new interactive features, easier navigation and more concise information. They had a lot of support – and a lot of challenges.
The website advisory committee – with two dozen members representing faculty, staff and students – met regularly for months before hiring a third-party web consultant, iFactory, to conduct preliminary research on how the site should look and work. The firm specializes in digital solutions for higher education, nonprofits and healthcare companies.
Among the project’s goals were:
- To design and build a website that is highly functional, inspiring as well as informative and well-suited to different audiences.
- To meet industry and legal standards by complying with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements.
- To achieve responsive design that displays and operates effectively on desktop computers and tablets as well as cell phones — which now account for 66% of web users.
Success would mean investing in a new content management system, Omni Update Campus, to replace the 15-year-old system – ancient by industry standards. And, mindful of the region’s sometimes temperamental climate, the committee recommended that the university move to a secure, cloud-hosted site.
In light of these upgrades and of the original site’s 60,000 pages on 415 individual websites that required assessment and overhaul, it’s easy to see why the project took more than the optimistic 11 months originally estimated.
Over the past year, the web team has tracked its progress and kept the campus community involved and informed through departmental meetings, electronic newsletters and presentations to the President’s Cabinet, the Staff Advisory Council, Student Government, Faculty Senate and each of the colleges.
So what can users expect from the revamped site?
Although there will be many changes, students, faculty and staff still will have easy access to Gulfline, Canvas, emails and services that they need.
Students will appreciate improvements in the way academic and advising information is presented that will help them find content that is important to them. Site structure and navigation were based on user tests and years of data analytics, according to Garner.
“The main switch has been the change in focus,” says Michael Salmond, associate professor of digital media design, who was a member of the website committee. “The new site is outward facing. By that I mean that it is a recruitment tool and one that showcases all the best aspects of FGCU – our history, our academics and our awesome students. The site is all about giving the prospective student, parent or donor a much better sense of who we are as an institution and one that reflects our innovative and dynamic nature.”
Faculty and staff from across the university are excited about the new site, which turns a spotlight on the people and the stories that represent FGCU. It provides visitors a way to view the university through the experiences of graduates as well as those who work or study here.
For Shomari Kee, associate director of programs for Campus Recreation, “the greatest benefit is the user-friendly Omni Update system, which gives content editors greater tools to work with to create more functional, dynamic websites.”
It’s a welcome change from the old system, which limited creativity, he said.
“With the new system we can make our programs and services come to life in a way that wasn’t available before,” Kee said.
Prospective students and their parents will find that the new site will enable them to get a much better sense of the university.
“The new site will be in sync with what FGCU represents today,” says Garner. “The site has a modern feel, like our campus and residence communities. The immersive nature of the site reflects the opportunities and rewards that students experience by getting involved. In addition, the site provides help when, where and how visitors need something – in the same way that the faculty and staff support students on campus.”
For Marc Laviolette, director of Admissions, “The biggest benefit the new website will have over the old version will be how mobile friendly it will be, not just in terms of how it displays on smart phones and iPads, but in terms of the flow of information and navigation from one screen to the next. From an Admissions perspective we need to provide all the pertinent information for prospective students in a clear and precise manner that keeps their interest. The last thing we want is for people to get lost on our site.”
We want your feedback
Please review the new site and provide feedback by going to fgcu.edu/newsite and completing the survey by March 31.