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The Re-launch of Calvin.Edu

Making Progress

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Research supports Information Architecture

For the last few weeks we (Matt Jeltema, Luke Robinson, Phil de Haan) have been perusing, discussing, pondering and debating the possible information architecture of Calvin’s Web site. There was a time when I could not have told you what an information architecture even was but now I am becoming quite familiar with the concept. And also quite convinced of its central importance in terms of not just what the Calvin Web site might eventually look like, but, more importantly, how a good information architecture will best serve both the users of Calvin’s site and the people who produce content for the site.

You can see Wikipedia for a definition of information architecture, but I’m not sure how much it will help you (it didn’t help me a whole lot). How I have come to define IA is by thinking of it simply as the way information is organized and found on our Web site. I remember when we began this process way back when that Todd Bennett of Dotmarketing said that if people need to know your org chart to navigate your Web site you’re probably not serving them very well. That stuck with me. That’s why when we began this project we started with research: focus groups, discussions with content contributors on campus, surveys of many, many audiences, a review of our competitors, an analysis of our Web site traffic for the last year or so—lots of data!

Now, we have used what we learned from all of that research to begin the process of bringing together the tons and tons of good content on our site with the things people say they are looking for. In many cases what people are looking for we already have. It’s just not been easy to find. Or it’s been in databases that don’t don’t allow the info to be easily found via our Web site. In other cases there are some things people would like that we provide in very rudimentary ways (an events calendar for example) and now we are considering how we can make some of those things better. Information architecture. :-)

As for the next steps on the IA part of the project, we’ve begun to circulate a draft of the proposed IA from Dotmarketing to various folks on campus and will be meeting with them soon to walk through the reasons for the recommendations. After that we will get the feedback back to Todd Bennett and then will come the wireframe process, another new thing I have learned a lot about in recent weeks! Stay tuned for more on that soon.

Phil de Haan, director
communications and marketing

P.S. Luke recommends Boxes and Arrows for good info on IA and more. :-)

Add your comments

3 comments on "Making Progress"
  • I think it largely depends on how familiar you already are with the website. There are certain items that I use frequently (calender, registrars office, etc) that I know exactly how to get to. But I only know that because I previously spend 5-6 minutes getting there the first time. But if I need to find something new, I too usual end up using Google. Unorganized lists, circular paths, and a search engine that produces irrelevant results make it difficult to find something if you don’t already know where it is.

    Posted by Andrew DeJong on 11/10 at 11:57 AM
  • I disagree with the above comment.  It takes me a long time to find anything on Calvin’s website; in fact, I don’t even bother with it.  Instead, I Google “Calvin College” and the item I’m looking for…much faster.

    Posted by Joanna on 11/10 at 11:16 AM
  • I’m a recent graduate of Calvin (2004) and since then I have taken courses at two other universities.  Calvin’s website remains far superior aesthetically and in usability than either of the places I have studied since.  Using Calvin’s website, it never takes me more than 5 or 6 clicks to find any page I need, whereas at the institution I’m at now, it can take five minutes of searching just to look for the page that lists the gym hours.  When applying to graduate schools last year, I spent much time browsing many school’s sites and never came across anything even remotely as easy to use as  Why change something that already works better than nearly everything else out there?

    Posted by Phil Ammar on 11/08 at 06:42 PM