The New Merrimack.edu
When we undertook our site redesign earlier this year, we knew we had a lot of work ahead of us. We had done a homepage-only redesign in 2011 that was fairly popular around campus, but that was only one page; a new redesign would have to cover all the thousands of pages of our site.
We chose White Whale Web Services to partner with us on the redesign. When we began working with them in July of 2011, they suggested an unconventional approach to the redesign. Instead of trying to redesign the entire site from the ground up, White Whale suggested we undertake the project in two phases.
In the first phase, White Whale proposed updating the whole site to a consistent template; improving the site’s search functionality; adding more dynamic content to the homepage; and implement a new content management system. That could be done quickly. The second phase would be a more ambitious redesign, building on the first phase to create something really innovative, exciting, and ready to serve Merrimack’s purposes for the next five years or more.
Today, January 17, marks the launch of the first phase. Here’s some of what was changed.
A new content management system
We’re now using the LiveWhale CMS to manage the Merrimack site’s content. LiveWhale makes it really easy for people all over campus to manage their pages, and to add stories, events, photos and more to their sites. We’re doing campus-wide LiveWhale training now and in the coming months, so you’ll see our pages flower with great content throughout the winter and spring.
If you start typing into the search box, you’ll see some results suggested to you automatically. Click one of those— or just hit return!— and you’ll go right to the page you’re looking for. And if you do need to actually search our site for content, our search results page now returns better results, as well as stories and events that match what you’re looking for.
A more dynamic homepage
Because LiveWhale has better tools for creating and sharing news and events, we have the opportunity to stream more of this content directly from our community onto our homepage. It’ll take some time for everyone to get on board with our new sharing functionality, but in the meantime, we’ve got a homepage that’s ready to show more news, events, photos and tweets from everyone at Merrimack. (If you’d like to know more about our plans for the homepage, just let us know.)
What’s coming next?
Now that we’ve “fixed” most of what was “broken” on the old site, we can set our sights higher for Phase 2. In the next month or two, we’re going to be talking to everyone on campus to get your ideas about what Merrimack should do on the Web beyond just making our site easier to navigate and use. What would you like to see on our homepage? How can the site better communicate Merrimack’s virtues to the public while continuing to be a great resource for all our staff, faculty and students?
Everyone at Merrimack helped get our site live, but there’s no way this project could have been accomplished (especially on this crazy timeline!) without the hard work of the Website Redesign Committee and Stacie Bowman and Michael Walton in Communications. And we’re thankful to the staff of White Whale as well: Jason Pontius, Tonya Moyle, Janie Porche, Alex Romanovich, and Fred LeBlanc.
Now here we go, on to Phase 2!