University to launch new home page Aug. 28

Author: Gail Hinchion Mancini

When the 2007-08 academic year begins, the world will get a clearer picture of life at the University of Notre Dame.

A newly designed, the Internet portal to the University, will be unveiled Tuesday (Aug. 28), giving an immersive look into life at Notre Dame, from world-changing research to the unique student experience to academic and service programs across the country and around the world.

Redesigned for the first time in a decade, the new site promises to deliver on the complete Notre Dame experience.

In this task, we challenged ourselves to be as forward thinking and creative in communications leadership as our faculty, students and administration are in thought leadership,said Hilary Crnkovich, vice president for public affairs and communication.The site draws you in by letting you experience Notre Dame on a daily basis. You can never completely imitate what it is like to be at Notre Dame. We believe this site will get you as close as technology will allow.

A Matter of Form and Function

The rich-media experience responds to a specific challenge that was defined as the design team consulted with students, prospective students, faculty and other University partners.

For years, weve heard from all over the country, all over the world, that being at Notre Dame is an exceptional and unique experience,said Todd Woodward, associate vice president of marketing communication.This site responds to the challenge: How can we allow the online visitorthe prospective student or faculty member, the loyal alumthe same experience that we enjoy here on campus?

To accomplish this, the Web designers traded in two-dimensional photographs and text for a layered, multimedia experience that gives users immediate access to the voices and video stories of engaged students and accomplished researchers. The variety is key to demonstrating the depth and the vibrancy of the University community, whose activities are felt both on campus and globally.

The use of video, on a revolving feature called a carousel, responds to a second challenge: the changing way that people seek and absorb information. The Pew Internet&American Life Project says that 57 percent of online adults have used the Internet to watch or download video and thatyoung adults are the most active participants in this realm.

Studying trends in traditional media, such as newspapers and television, and social media such as YouTube, you quickly conclude that people want to hear about a subject directly from the person involved,Woodward said.Video allows viewers to experience our story directly from the source.

At the same time, by listening to faculty, staff, students, alumni and other University partners, the new is a better user experience. The homepage features more information on daily events and breaking campus news. The search engine now is powered by Google. And a refined navigation system is showing, in early tests, that the site leads users to their destination in a more intuitive way.

Longtime users will recognize many of the navigation choices, but new navigation has been developed to better tell the contemporary Notre Dame story. For example,Leadershiphighlights the activities of the president, provost and executive vice president. A link calledCampus and Communityallows the viewer to explore topics such as campus safety issues, technology, and opportunities for the performing and visual arts.

Knowing Your Audience

The redesign, by a team from the Office of Public Affairs and Communication, was more than a year in the making. Before the design phase began, the team carefully examined the needs and interests of the audiences that visit the site. Ripple Effects Interactive, an interactive marketing research firm, conducted focus groups and other surveys with prospective students, students, faculty, staff and alumni. The research provided an independent view of user needs and expectations that complemented the in-house designersunderstanding of University audiences. Close collaboration with the faculty and administration and other constituent representatives continued throughout the design process.

The new homepage and secondary pages bring a new continuity to the overall Notre Dame Web presence, as the sites of many of the Universitys departments, centers, institutes and administrative offices already had been designed by the in-house team.

Evolutionary approach

Designers consider the launch the end of Phase I, but the project is still a work in progress. Several more features will be introduced in the coming month, including an interactive campus map and a redesigned University events calendar. The team awaits feedback, as well, on how the media-rich environment will inspire University Webmasters to themselves consider video and other multi-dimensional presentations.

One example already at hand is a newly designed athletic department Web site, Launched Aug.6, the redesigned site provides fans of Notre Dame athletics with countless opportunities to experience their favorite sports on video. Much of the content is exclusive to the Web site and cannot be found elsewhere.

From football coach Charlie Weisweekly press conferences to pep rallies to highlights of the Friday football luncheons, the site allows viewers to experience an exclusive view of Notre Dame athletics. The Universitys Olympic sports competitions, which rarely are broadcast on conventional sports television, will be available for viewing as well.

Its like a cable box,said Boo Corrigan, associate athletic director for corporate relations and marketing, of the new video-driven site.Weve got 26 different channels. Each sport has its own channel.

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