A Family of Secondary Pages
These wireframes represent a family of pages with a grid layout similar to that of the homepage, with certain common elements maintained—namely, the header and footer. This is consistent with the current templates and our request that departments using those templates maintain the standard we’ve set for those areas. The logic behind requiring compliance with this is that it creates a visual (and navigational) consistency that helps visitors identify sites as UT sites—sites that should function in a certain way. There’s a comfort with that sort of familiarity, a comfort that yields results when visitors are able to find the information they’re seeking quickly and easily.
Tip: When designing your department’s pages, always identify your audience first and ask yourself what it is that they’re looking for. It’s not always the case that what you want to emphasize and what your audience wants to see emphasized are the same thing. Remember, people come to your website to find information that’s relevant to their needs. Make sure they can access it. Information design should always come before visual design, and visual design should never get in the way of your information.
The primary distinction between the navigation we’re proposing here and the current utk.edu navigation is that we’ve broken out categories from audiences in the structure of the navigation itself—what we’re proposing for our primary navigation is a series of categories that reflect areas that we as a university are striving to emphasize.
These category pages will be more dynamic than the current utk.edu pages. We’ll be incorporating more content from our university news site, Tennessee Today, and will be working with our colleagues in Media Relations to refine and centralize their tagging and category taxonomies to ensure that appropriate news content is pushed to the correct category pages. We’ll also use these pages to showcase the accomplishments of our talented faculty, students, and staff, as well as our campus events and culture.
We’ll also be working with our colleagues in Video & Photography to feature and highlight more of their professional-quality video content. They’ve been producing some amazing work recently, like this feature for the fiftieth anniversary of African American achievement:
In other words, these pages will help us tell the story of the University of Tennessee, and they’ll provide a place for us to shine a spotlight on the amazing things happening on and around our campus—as well as the amazing people who make it all happen.
Our hope is that the addition of more dynamic and timely content to these pages will help make them more relevant to our end users—in particular, visitors who may not be as familiar with UT as our internal audiences. These visitors might be prospective students, prospective faculty members or post docs, community members, legislators, or prospective staff and administrators.
We’re no longer leading with an audience-based navigation, but we’re not ignoring it either. Instead of leading with a navigation that segments the site based on audience, we’re providing that as a secondary means of accessing site content. Along with the traditional divisions, we’ve also added a couple of new audience segments: Parents and Community.
These pages are where the rubber meets the road, so to speak—they’re the avenue to tools and information that should speak more directly to the needs of particular visitors. We’ll collect links on these pages based in large part on the analytics we have on our current site. Information that is more heavily or frequently accessed will be linked prominently on these pages, as it is on the current utk.edu website on pages like “Future Students,” “Current Students,” etc.
As with the category pages, we’ll be adding more dynamic content to these pages so they aren’t simply lists of links. We’ll pull in news and events that might be of interest to these constituencies, and we’ll work with departments on campus who directly serve these populations to be sure that we’re featuring/emphasizing the right sorts of things on the pages.
Again, we’ll be using these pages to brag a little about our university, but the primary emphasis here will be on access to information rather than storytelling. For instance, we’ll be asking ourselves what these audiences want to do or accomplish when they come to the site—prospective students need to have quick access to an application process, current students need to have quick access to calendars, and faculty and staff need to have quick access to policies and employment information. We know that the visitors to these pages are looking for something, they won’t stick around too long, and they’ll get frustrated if they can’t locate their desired information quickly.
Don’t Forget the Feedback
We mentioned it before, but we value your comments, questions, and feedback. Please post it below.