In March 2019, the UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences launched its redesigned website with a reorganization of content.
By the end of the year, the website had seen the following improvements:
- 3% increase in views on the homepage.
- 16% increase of average time on a webpage from previous year.
- 21% decrease in bounce rate from previous year.
- Added webpages for ease of access, including a prospective student page which saw 16k+ visitors, an undergraduate student page which saw 40k+ views, and a graduate student page which saw 13k+ views within a year.
- 2,500 downloads of the transfer student guide within a year.
How was this accomplished? With 11 hardworking teammates.
There were two main goals of the UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences’ (CALS) website redesign: (1) to recruit and retain outstanding students, and (2) to strengthen alumni and stakeholder connections. Through these two goals, the college aims to inform its audiences on the breadth and depth of the college – from its majors, minors, certificates, extracurricular activities, pride points, events, resources, alumni updates, and more.
The college website had not been redesigned for more than 10 years, so a refreshed look was needed to attract prospective students and their influencers. Additionally, the content and photos needed to be updated and content needed to be reorganized to provide a better user experience for all audiences visiting the site.
Current and prospective students were the primary target audience for this website redesign project. Within the prospective student audience are middle and high school students, students at other institutions who wish to transfer to UF, current students at UF looking to discover their major, and non-traditional students wanting to earn their bachelor’s degree. Secondary audiences for this website included teachers and parents of prospective students, alumni, faculty, staff, community members, and faculty/staff of other peer institutions.
A survey was implemented at the beginning of the CALS website redesign process, and a post-redesign survey was used to evaluate the success of the site redesign. The initial survey indicated the areas of improvement for the website.
In these responses to the pre-survey, audiences provided the following feedback:
- “It’s cluttered and pages have vague/not-in-depth information”
- “Need newer photos.”
- “Updated design, looks outdated. It is not always obvious where some info is.”
- “A little unorganized.”
- “Would like to see the ambiance fall in line with other university sites.”
- “Have more student content and stories.”
- “Not enough attention is placed on transfer students.”
- “Difficult to find information.”
- Most felt the previous site was boring and outdated, yet approachable, friendly, and informative.
- Most would “probably” or “might/might not” recommend the site to a friend or family member.
Throughout the redesign process, current and prospective students were asked to provide feedback that then informed decisions for the website redesign. Some of these key points included: (1) evaluation of three different website design styles and content elements (2) sitemap and navigation of content (3) content editing and photos.
Highlights of the redesign include: a newly organized navigation with landing pages, landing pages for each major that students can toggle between which also complement newly designed and printed recruitment cards, development of a new interactive Majors Quiz, creation of a “Why CALS?” section that includes pride points, integration and redesign of CALS Connection online newsletter, link to CALS blog, addition of a news section linking to press releases, and fresh photos with a modern look and focused on diversity. Videos about majors for each major’s landing page were made by students majoring in agricultural education and communication.
In mid-December 2018, we begin building the pages after completed training in the content management system of our site. Prior to starting this process, we implemented a workflow chart using Scrum, an agile methodology where incremental builds are delivered every two to three weeks. By mid-February we completed the build to launch over the university’s spring break.
The website was launched over spring break of 2019 and when students came back to campus they were able to provide feedback on the site. A link to the post-survey with a visual design piece was shared on the website homepage, student emails, social media, digital displays in hallways of college-related buildings, and emails to student organizations, alumni, faculty, and staff.
The redesigned CALS website has been and continues to be well-received by all audiences. CALS is the teaching branch of the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS), and most sites for the departments, schools, and other units within UF/IFAS are now utilizing the CALS template designed with UF/IFAS Web Services.
In the post-survey, audiences provided the following feedback:
- Most felt the redesigned site was approachable, clear, fresh, informative, and modern.
- All would “definitely” or “probably” recommend the site to a friend or family member.
- Respondents had no complaints or suggestions to improve the website after the redesign.
Units across UF’s campus have also complemented the site and have asked how the college made the website design possible. The communicators from the UF Graduate School said the site was “a handsome, legible, and navigable product.” Communicators from other land-grant universities with colleges of agricultural and life sciences were also interested in recreating Majors Quizzes similar to CALS’ saying, “it’s beautiful and accurate!”
Students have shared how much they like the organization of the material on the website as well as the diverse photos. Students say they have a better user experience looking for major and advisor information, transfer guide content, extracurricular information, and news.