August 12, 2002

University Web site gets a facelift, goes live today

portion of Gateway
    A portion of the new Gateway
By Laurel Thomas Gnagey

The U-M Internet home page has undergone a physical transformation that is expected to make moving through the U-M Web site easier for internal and external audiences. The new site makes its debut today (Aug. 12).

"The updated design will enable everyone (including visitors from outside the University) to navigate more easily the information-rich U-M Web site, while at the same time minimizing disruption to the site's general organization," says Paul Courant, interim provost.

Courant says the information architecture has remained largely unchanged, with nearly every link that existed before the redesign remaining intact. "In addition, we have added an address-forwarding mechanism that will help users get to their favorite sites," Courant says.

Redesign team coordinator John Williams, director of Web resources for the Office of Development, says the new Web interface is "more intuitive and gives ready access to more than 100 pages right from the front page, and more than 3,500 sites with two clicks or less.

"It also provides more room for news and topical items, which means a broader and deeper picture of U-M via its Web site," he says. New features of the site include:

  • A text-only version for those with disabilities and special access needs

  • Pull-down windows on major headings that enable visitors to reach more than 200 primary sites from the home page

  • A "Quick Links" section in the lower right-hand corner that provides direct links to sites most often searched, such as job postings

  • Four new audience-specific, alternate home pages (accessed as tabs) that simplify navigation for the Web site's major user groups-faculty and staff, current students, prospective students, alumni, donors and friends

  • Regularly updated information including an expanded "In the News" section highlighting current University stories with a multi-media presentation when possible; a section called "Michigan Focus" for special U-M initiatives; and a "Featured Site" section linking to interesting campus Web sites

  • A fresh graphic look highlighting current images of campus life

News and Information Services also will launch a new site today to complement the Gateway. Future plans include a new president's page and an updated University Record site.

In addition to the visible changes, Information Technology Central Services (ITCS) has upgraded the entire server infrastructure used for the U-M homepage and related sites, says James Hilton, associate provost for academic information and instructional technology affairs, and professor of psychology. "The result is a greatly increased capacity to meet the needs of our ever-growing Web site traffic," he says.

The new look and feel of the home page represent a collaborative effort between the Office of the Provost, the Office of the Vice President for Communications and ITCS. Williams says the process involved careful consideration of the needs of internal and external audiences.

"Over 200 people tested the new design in a trial phase, but we anticipate additional modifications as we move forward," he says.

Hilton adds that the redesign team is interested in campus feedback regarding the changes. To comment on the new gateway, visit www.umich.edu and click on the "contact us" button at the top of the screen or e-mail um.gateway@umich.edu.


The Gateway team

Two teams worked on the Gateway redesign project. The "Gateway Phase I Team" set goals and specifications for the new home page. The "Gateway Crew," worked on the information architecture, interface design and graphics, and wrote the Javascript and HTML code for the site, and did extensive browser and user testing. An asterisk denotes the "Gateway Crew" and a double asterisk indicates those who worked on both committees. Those without an asterisk are from the "Gateway Phase I Team."

Lisa Rudgers, Office of the Vice President for Communications
James Hilton, Office of the Provost
Brett Ashley, Marketing Communications**
Amy Brooks, Office of Development
Deborah Gibson, Marketing Communications*
Justin Laby, College of Engineering*
Chris Lucier, Admissions
Kevin McGowan, ITCS Webmaster**
Diane Hall-O-Dell, ITCS Web Services**
Willie Northway, ITCS*
Julie Peterson, Office of the Vice President for Communications
Lee Doyle, Office of the Vice President for Communications
Mary Jo Frank, Office of the Vice President for Communications
Martha Vander Kolk, ITCS Web/Database Services
Nancy Connell, News and Information Services
Peggy Burns, LS&A Marketing & Communications
Scott Williams, Marketing Communications**
John Williams, Office of Development**
Lenny Zenith, News and Information Services*