While we were spending a lot of time on the back-end of our web management, our site grew, organically, freely, and not necessarily coherently. So we decided to take the next, long overdue step: to look what the actual user experience. Normally, people are scared of the audits and the consequences they might bring. We were different. We were begging for our audit. We wanted someone with hands on, real world experience to look at our site and the ways we use it.

So, once again, we assembled a large campus committee, and selected (out of more than 20 proposals) two Chicago-based firms, Rogue Element and Promet Source, design/branding and Drupal companies respectively. They were asked to look at our audiences, so our first task was to prioritize. Yes, everyone is important, but by how much? Here was the answer: Prospective Students, Alumni, Current Students, Faculty, and Staff.

With these priorities in mind, Promet/Rogue got to work. Through personal, phone and electronic interviews, they polled over 50k of our constituents (38K prospective students, 14K alums, 1688 students, 208 faculty and 426 staff.)

What they found out was not surprising to us. First, the more familiar a user was with a school, the less they thought our website represented it well. (While 79% of prospective students thought the website reflects positively on the school, only 31% of the faculty and 38% of the students do.) Secondly, our users were very much in sync in what they wanted to see on the web site: better search, navigation, and structure; a better calendar, and, most importantly, a real, vibrant and timely representation of what it’s like to be in Grinnell. It was high time to rethink and renew entire web presence.

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