The previous website design and information architecture, which can still be viewed on many pages of Imperial's content, dates from a major review project in 2007. Though the designs had served Imperial well, they began to look dated and did not properly facilitate the way in which our audiences use information online.

Objectives

The primary object for the project (which was kicked off in 2012 with work starting properly with our appointed design agency, Domain 7, in early 2013) was to create a market leading website design that complements Imperial’s international reputation as a world-class institution and that continues to be a key means for users to find and interact with information about the College.

This was to be achieved by delivering:

  • Renewed audience research, to see if our audience has changed and based upon these findings, make sure that our site meets the needs and requirements of our diverse range of audiences.
  • Make the website compatible with mobile devices so there is an excellent user experience, regardless of the user’s device.
  • A refreshed design, making the most of current industry trends.
  • A reviewed navigational approach across the website.
  • Content strategy and best practice (strengthened following project commencement).
  • That the redesigned Imperial website meet level AA conformance of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 (added since project commencement).

Change of Content Management System (CMS)

After the inception of the project, it became clear that a change of CMS technology was going to be required to address the future needs of Imperial for our website. This was  brought about not only by the needs of the redesign project to deliver a responsive website using a modern CMS with better tools, but also changes in the way the previous CMS is supported by its supplier and how it performs against web standards (such as accessibility requirements and search).

A CMS selection process was completed in the at the end of 2013. In January 2014, we signed contracts with TERMINALFOUR to purchase their Site Manager CMS product. TERMINALFOUR specialises in the higher education market, with clients across the globe. There is a considerable user community which helps to support each other but also to feed into future development plans. The CMS Implementation workstream of the redesign project will now be working with TERMINALFOUR to plan the installation and set up of our new system.

Phased approach to content launch

Implementing a new CMS system required the redesign project to deliver a new site for Imperial in stages, whilst continuing to link to and support sites in the existing platform. 

Moving content from Oracle Portal to SiteManager required much reworking to ensure it worked with the new information architecture and design, was up to date, and correctly formatted for the new CMS. We worked with content owners to train and agree the approach to moving their content to the new site.

New designs

The new designs, by our agency Domain 7, were first presented at the January 2013 Web Forum, with a further update at the March Forum. Slides and recordings can be accessed through the redesign blog.

Moving to a responsive web design is a big change for the College and for our editor community. Users will no longer be designing content to work on one fixed layout. Content will move and re-arrange as the screen size alters. The March Forum discussed this in detail, and we will continue to plan our training to ensure users understand the change and are able to prepare their content accordingly.

Project progress

The following milestones have been completed (or status shown):

  • Appointment of design agency - January 2013
  • Discovery period / audience research - spring 2013
  • Guiding Concepts for project agreed with agency and Imperial - June 2013
  • Decision to change CMS - summer 2013
  • CMS selection exercise - summer - autumn 2013
  • Sitemap agreed - December 2013
  • Phasing plan for content agreed - January 2014
  • Contracts signed with new CMS provider - January 2014
  • Wireframes approved - January 2014
  • Design styleboards approved - January 2014
  • Design concepts agreed - March 2014
  • HTML/CSS delivered - reusable templates code completed June 2014. Uniques September 2014.
  • Build into CMS - reusable templates built into CMS, completed Sept 2014
  • Communications and passing on guidance and best practice - ongoing
  • Preparation and planning of content by users - September 2014 and ongoing
  • Training of Phase 1 editors - in progress, started September 2014
  • Editing of content for Phase 1 - completed December 2014
  • Phase 2 - onwards training and content planning - in progress throughout 2015
  • Project complete Easter 2016