The University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business launched a new website at the start of the fall 2013 semester. The school partnered with VisionPoint Marketing, an online marketing firm based in Raleigh, N.C., that specializes in the development of higher education websites.
The new website utilizes all of the latest web technologies – including responsive web design – and is built using Drupal 7, the latest version of a popular web development platform and content management system. The website also delivers a new branding strategy for the school as part of the project that kicked off last fall.
Earlier this year, senior administrators from the Smith School joined together for a half-day branding workshop, led by Tony Poillucci, vice president of strategy and creative at VisionPoint Marketing.
“I was impressed with how incredibly passionate and involved the Smith School team was during this website redesign project,” said Poillucci. “Not only did they contribute at an extremely high level, they constantly went above and beyond to ensure the website was the best it could be. From the initial stakeholder interviews and the branding workshop, through the design and development phase; Smith School stakeholders – faculty, staff, students, alumni – were more than 'clients,' they became partners who made the website better with their valuable input and dedication.”
Redesigning the website was a monumental undertaking. The website encompasses thousands of pages and dozens of subsites for academic programs, Centers of Excellence, student services, news, events, and a faculty directory. Phase 2 of the project – underway this fall – includes optimizing lower-level pages and the addition of new functionality to the directory and event database.
Want to find out more about the new website? Keep reading… otherwise; start experiencing it by visiting: www.rhsmith.umd.edu
The school’s four branding pillars are showcased on the new website: world-class faculty and research, experiential/reality-based learning, entrepreneurial spirit, and community. Each branding pillar represents a differentiator for the school. News stories are tagged to a pillar to show it in action.
The primary target audience of any business school website is the prospective student, and the new Smith School website focuses on helping future students find the information they need quickly and efficiently. New “User Gateway” pages help all visitors easily navigate the website. The user-friendly design has consistent navigation at the top of every page – just click or touch the three lines next to the logo to open and close the global navigation feature.
The website is built using responsive web design (RWD), a mobile-friendly approach that provides an optimal viewing experience across a wide range of devices. Want to see how RWD works? Just resize your browser and the design will automatically change to best suit the size of your viewing area.
Interactive & Dynamic
Some websites have rotating images and call that “interactive” and “dynamic.” The new Smith School website takes that claim much more seriously. Users are able to comment on articles and also share news stories and event announcements on social media via Disqus, the most popular discussion system on the web. The website integrates all of the Smith School’s social media posts throughout the website. In addition, all news and event items are tagged, so they show up in the appropriate areas of the website. Check out the “Happening Now” section of the home page for all of the latest highlights.
Consistent & Timely
One of the hardest things to do with a large-scale website is to keep everything consistent and timely. The Drupal content management platform allows us to dynamically add, change and remove items across the website. Templates offer a consistent hierarchical structure to the entire website, which promotes greater usability. More than 50 trained users throughout the school will be updating content on a regular basis.
What’s the trick to designing a website that can stand the test of time? “Making your website as adaptable as possible is key to staying current,” said Alissa Arford, director of online strategy for the Smith School. “The lifespan of a static website is about three years and it’s hard to anticipate the next big thing with online technologies. We decided to take on some initial pain to help ensure the long-term success of the Smith website. Incorporating responsive web design and moving all of our content into the Drupal content management platform has been a very time-consuming process, but the benefit is that our new website is highly adaptable and we can easily incorporate new technologies. We are very excited with the functionality of the new website and feel like we are ahead of the pack compared to other business schools. ”
Have feedback about the new website? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.