A while ago we announced the launch of a new website for Nottingham University’s CNSS Research and Applications Centre of Excellence(GRACE). This became a reality now and it is a great example of how User Centre Design can transform a website to change its focus to real users.
Picture 1. GRACE old Homepage
Picture 2. GRACE new Homepage
The images above speak for themselves. How the GRACE Homepage used to be and how it has been evolved after the UCD approach Zabisco had followed in order to redesign this website. However it is worth highlighting some key areas of change from the old to the new site:
The old site used “Double tab” navigation – users experienced difficulty in clicking second level navigation as once they removed the mouse from the area of second level of navigation the links disappeared (Issue: Overly sensitive rollovers that launch and block content). Also the purpose of GRACE wasn’t clear as the main navigation sections were too general without additional explanation. Solution: Introducing “Doormat” navigation that exposes the key areas of GRACE in the Primary navigation and 3rd level content pages are only a click away. By using Doormat navigation we reduced the main sections from 9 to 4.
Picture 3. GRACE old Double tab navigation
Picture 4. GRACE new Doormat navigation
One of the major requirements of the new site was the need of people to engage with GRACE and start interacting with each other. This could be best achieved with the introduction of an online Community allowing users various activities such as to create groups, communicate with each other and have their own space where they can create blog entries.
Physical vs. Virtual presence
One of the key challenges was to find the right balance between the online presence of the Company and the demonstration of the GRACE building & facilities. A range of new photographs and banners throughout the website helped us build a prominent existence of GRACE building. On the other side the online community is a powerful tool to enhance the virtual presence of GRACE.
News & Events
Two other sections that changed completely from the old site are News & Events. Users found it hard to navigate from the old News page to various news articles. The News section on the new site has a left hand side navigation that groups the news to Latest news, News Archive, and brings feeds from various blogs. There is also a feed on the Homepage with latest news. In the Past when Grace had a new event they had to build a micro site for that particular event with its own navigation. As a result they had links that led to each event making it difficult for a user to navigate from one event to another. There was an issue with inconsistency of events layout too as each micro site had a different design. The new Events section has a calendar that highlights this month events and also the ability for a user to check future month’s events too. As with news section there is a constant left hand site navigation that users can use in order to find past, upcoming or featured events.
Picture 5. Example of old GRACE event micro site
Picture 6. GRACE new events page
As GRACE website will continue growing we are looking forward for your feedback of how we can improve it in future phases. Feel free to e-mail us or add your comments to this post.