We recently undertook an important step of our website redesign, the discovery phase. Groups representing virtually every area of the Wilkes community were formed. This included faculty, current students, advancement & alumni engagement, the athletics department, and the administration. The groups met with mStoner (via Zoom conference calls) to discuss the future of wilkes.edu – what the site currently does well, what could be improved, and their thoughts on the future of the site. The groups were kept small and each group met individually with mStoner to ensure participants had ample time to be heard.
mStoner summarized their findings into 10 key themes:
- Wilkes in an institution in transition. A global pandemic, the start of Dr. Cant’s tenure as university president, and the shifting landscape of higher education, Wilkes is undeniably facing changes. But these changes, rather than being viewed purely as a challenge, should also be seen as the chance to evolve in bold and imaginative ways. This redesign should reflect this transition.
- The new site should focus on serving the needs of external audiences. Wilkes.edu is vital in building relationships with prospective students and their families and informing them about the University. The content and structure of the new site will primarily focus on better meeting their needs. The site also supports other important external audiences, such as alumni and current and prospective donors. The needs of these groups will also be taken into consideration throughout the redesign.
- A solution for better meeting the needs of internal audiences is also an imperative. Keeping in mind the previous theme, current students, faculty and staff also utilize wilkes.edu and the Wilkes University portal for a variety of important functions. The redesign will improve guidelines for what content should exist externally on wilkes.edu versus being kept within the portal. This will trim the clutter found in some sections of the website currently while improving accessibility and ease of navigation for all users.
- The new site should better showcase the large number of both undergraduate and graduate academic programs and provide site visitors with multiple ways to explore those programs, including by end goal or career interest, degree type, and location. Prospective students are more and more interested in not just the “what” of programs, but the “why.” Highlighting outcomes, successes stories, career opportunities, and more will better showcase how a Wilkes education can benefit students.
- The new site should be mobile-native, streamlined, easier to use, with clear and logical paths to information, no redundancy, and no inaccuracies. Accessibility will remain a high priority as we design the new site to be clean, accurate, and easy to navigate for all users. and all platforms (mobile, desktop, tablet, etc.).
- The new site should bring the institution to life for prospectives through dynamic digital stories of students, faculty, alumni, and the Wilkes community. Content should produced at a higher rate of frequency and more heavily feature high-quality multimedia assets to better tell the story of Wilkes.
- The site should showcase the distinctions that define and differentiate Wilkes in ways that are emotionally resonant. Wilkes offers the benefits of a larger institution, such as plentiful opportunities for meaningful undergraduate research and experiential learning, while keeping a the close-knit community that promotes faculty mentoring and interconnected academic programs. These key strengths should be a highlight throughout the new site.
- The new site should be an integrated hub for content. Wilkes University social media accounts, the News@Wilkes newsroom and other outlets of the University community tell the story of Wilkes daily. A comprehensive content tagging system will allow these numerous channels to seamlessly integrate with the new site and provide a more vibrant, dynamic life to wilkes.edu.
- This project gives Wilkes the opportunity to implement web governance policies that support the institution’s goals. With a redesigned website will come clearer content and brand guidelines as well as better training for department editors of wilkes.edu. Ideally, every section or department of Wilkes will have one person properly trained on and given access to edit their area of the website. This will keep the site better maintained for the future and keep the Wilkes brand consistent from section to section.
- The redesign will address the technical “pain points” found on the current site. Long-standing technical issues or feature requests will be met. This includes “front-facing features” such as more accessible forms, an improved campus directory and refined university calendar, as well as back-end upgrades such as better conversion tracking and fixing content publishing issues.
The discovery phase provided a much-needed review of how our university community views the website’s current state. The findings were largely in line with our own views of the current website’s strengths and needs for improvement. These themes will guide the redesign.
Questions or comments regarding the redesign may be directed to: