During the first part of this project, people from all over Caltech came together to tell us about their experience with the current Caltech website and share their vision for what they wanted from the next version of it. In focus groups and community forums we talked a lot about how you need the site to function (we heard loud and clear: fix the search functionality!) But even more important, you shared how you see Caltech and what you want the new website to reflect.
The objective of this “Discovery” phase was to learn two things:
- What sets Caltech apart from other research universities?
- What are the specific web needs of faculty, staff, students, and visitors?
Here’s some of what you said:
- The current Caltech site is dry and blah – it does not meet my expectations for what Caltech stands for;
- I want to know what faculty and other students are up to, and what research is going on;
- We need to reach the people who do not know about Caltech so that we can extend Caltech’s influence;
- People should come to the site and say “I can’t believe they are doing that” and “I wish I was there.”
Caltech isn’t like everywhere else, you said. We are more than just a university and our website should reflect that.
Plus it should be easy to use because we all have jobs to do.
The result of all your input was a concept for what the new site could be. This was probably the hardest part of the whole project. We knew we didn’t want to catch up with other University sites – you made that clear. You see Caltech as a destination for people who are like minded and curious. You expect our website to be a resource for people interested in the work being done on the frontiers of science and technology. And you really want the website to represent this dynamic, vibrant community of people not just in words, but in pictures and in a great user experience.
This all came together when Fashion Buddha came back with the core concept for our redesign: a news site!
By that, we mean a site rich with content, both visual and written, along with intuitive navigation, a search function that will get you to what you want, and pathways for curious visitors. Oh, and one more thing: it’s portable. It’s going to look good as good–and work as well–on your tablet and mobile phone as it will on your computer.
There are some key changes, and the blog posts over the next few days will introduce those to you, but here’s what you should know now:
1. Everything that’s in our current site is in the new site. It’s all there. It might not be where you are used to looking – but that also might be because it was in a wonky place in our old site and you had to know where to look. It’s probably going to feel a little awkward at first, but please hang in there and keep trying. It’s like anything new – it will just take a little getting used to.
2. Search works in the new site. We heard loud and clear how frustrating it was to use the search function on the current site. That’s fixed. So if you feel like you can’t use the menus to find what you’re looking for (or if you don’t want to use the menus), use the search window. (Unless, of course, you’re looking for a person – in that case, use the Directory button). Search and directory will always be available to you, no matter where you are in the site – just look up to the top right corner of your screen.
3. It’s going to be different. But it’s going to be better, and the launch date is only the beginning.
It’s like we have been living in a house that is way too small. We outgrew the house years ago and have been “making it work” for a long time. Now we’re about to move into a huge house with all kinds of modern conveniences that we haven’t had before. October 1 is move-in day and that’s when we will start a whole new digital life for Caltech!