September 28, 2012
Creating a successful web portal requires high-quality design, the latest tools and a focus on the user experience. For a university, the users are often students, so what better way to improve web GUI design than by using student input?
According to the school's newspaper, Western University recently updated its web UI design with significant improvements. The updates, which went live shortly after the fall semester began, were developed over the past few years with some help from students.
"It wasn’t just overall appearance that mattered, we wanted to focus on the user experience such that students, faculty and visitors are able to visit the sites and get what they need without a problem," Bhavin Prajapati, a recent Anthropology and Biology graduate who helped with the redesign of the Faculty of Science website, told the news source.
The school's website hadn't received a major overhaul in several years, according to the news source, and was in desperate need of a change. The majority of those changes were in the GUI design, but many focused on content as well. These updates include a design to help frequent visitor find their favorite pages, a focus on news stories, streamlined navigation and a more intuitive design. Additionally, the site implemented a brand new content management system (CMS) design.
While the site could have been built by professionals, the school chose to include students in the process. This decision was important to the university, according to the news source, because it helped ensure the site best met the needs of those who use it most frequently.
"At every stage of the consultation, people pointed out things to us that kept making the site better and better," said Terry Rice, Marketing and Creative Services director at Western’s Communications and Public Affairs Department. "This has been an incredible amount of work for our talented team of student designers, web designers in our department, as well as a few key partners in ITS. It will be rewarding for all involved today [launch day]."
Integrating user feedback into web design provides a number of benefits, but the most important is the focus on the user experience and satisfaction that it provides. For any organization, including users in the design process is a bold move that, while it can slow down design, will help make a significantly better website overall if done properly.