Duke University launched a redesigned home page today, one that reflects a shift in how people interact with online stories and where they look for information -- from desktops to laptops to smart phones and tablets.
While the general navigation remains similar to Duke's previous home page, the new version relies on larger images, more white space and snappier graphics.
"Even as social media and mobile devices have increased the ways people connect with Duke, the home page is still the busiest and most visible 'front door' to the university," said Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations. "It has to be both distinctively Duke, and an intuitive, easy-to-use source of information and navigation."
"With the Duke community using so many different tools to access the webpage, we needed a new design that would improve the experience while looking more consistent across multiple platforms," said Denise Haviland, executive director of Duke's Office of Marketing and Strategic Communications. "Most important, we want the site to embody the extraordinary community and variety of experiences available at Duke."
The new website will share a similar look and feel with a forthcoming redesign of the Duke Health website, creating a more seamless user experience for all Duke web visitors. This is the sixth version of the university's home page since it went online in the mid-1990s. It replaces a design that had been active since October 2009. (You can see the earlier versions of the website on a University Archives page.)
Multiple Duke offices collaborated on the project. The Office of Marketing and Strategic Communications (OMSC) and OIT's Duke Web Services office partnered on the concept, design and production of the page. The Office of News and Communication contributed content. The project was led and managed by Blyth Morrell, assistant director of OMSC.
The new page features large images, video, social media and news. It follows recent trends in web design that emphasize front-page scrolling and fewer click-throughs for navigation, as well as more open space. It's an approach that has been used successfully on other Duke sites, such as Undergraduate Admissions, and on news sites such as the recently redesigned New York Times.
Several prominent images rotate at the top of Duke's new site, each linked to a timely story that explores intellectual topics and campus life. This prominent space will emphasize innovative graphical story telling that was unavailable on the past home page. In addition, the site uses an innovative graphics system to create sharper text and more vibrant colors.
Lower on the page, other elements provide news from Duke Today and the latest postings from Duke social media. Additional features spotlight key university programs and initiatives. The home page will also continue to play an essential role during emergencies in conjunction with Duke's emergency website.
Functionally, the new design reduces the content from the previous site, promoting easier scanning and navigation. Multiple navigation bars and a Google-based search box still allow homepage users to easily find and access the most popular Duke webpages and services, including campus maps, the university calendar and websites for the schools and institutes.
"We've created a site that is richer in media but lighter in content," Morrell said. "The former iteration of the homepage relied heavily on secondary pages. Our new approach consolidates the content into fewer pages, creating a smoother experience for the millions of people who come to Duke University for the first time every year through its website."
Haviland added that as many Duke programs have enhanced their online presence, the university home page is increasingly directing visitors to those sites, focusing central resources on university-wide content.
"We're excited at the potential this website has to introduce visitors to the things we're proud of at Duke while meeting the information needs of university faculty, staff, students, parents and alumni," Haviland said.
The home page went live Thursday afternoon. Some users may need to clear the computer cache for the redesigned site to appear.