The new Carolina Planning website better serves the department’s needs while also attracting attention.
Since ITS Digital Services created and launched the WordPress website for the Department of City and Regional Planning in October, other UNC-Chapel Hill departments have been asking about redesigning their own sites to look more like the Carolina Planning website.
Other departments expressing interest
“We are getting a lot of inquiries from other departments that have seen the new website and are interested in working with us,” said Kim Vassiliadis, Digital Solutions Manager at Digital Services.
That is, said Professor Noreen McDonald, Chair of City and Regional Planning, “perhaps the sincerest form of compliment.” As the project sponsor, McDonald worked closely with Digital Services on the Carolina Planning website.
“Alumni, students and faculty from across campus have all told me how much they like the new website,” McDonald said.
Website is easier to use
For the Department of City and Regional Planning, the website is better enabling business. The Carolina Planning site is much cleaner, and it’s easier to navigate and keep up-to-date.
Carolina Planning rewrote and reorganized nearly of all of its content. A student from the department created the feature image for the website’s home page.
Goal was to attract students
“The site was designed to attract new students, and they wanted to present themselves as a national and international program, instead of a regional one that only focuses on North Carolina,” Vassiliadis said. “They elevated storytelling and profile write-ups to show what their students work on and where they’re from.”
Kicking off work in February 2017, Digital Services executed the entire project: content strategy, design and development. Vassiliadis handled project management while Angie Barker, Digital Services’ Front-End Web Developer, created the design.
“They had an old Plone site and knew they wanted to move to WordPress,” Vassiliadis said. “We started from scratch. We spent the bulk of our time on content strategy, which consisted of content audit, sitemap, wireframes and usability.”
Ensured buy-in from faculty and staff
A small committee of Planning faculty and staff made decisions about the department’s website based on consensus. Halfway through the process, Digital Services presented a project update to department faculty members to ensure that they were on board with decisions, Vassiliadis said.
“They were a fun group,” Vassiliadis said. “I think doing the usability testing on the site map went a long way to helping people feel like progress was being made and we were on the right path.”
The experience working with Digital Services was “wonderful,” McDonald said.
“We spent a great deal of time thinking about how the website could serve departmental needs – from providing information to students interested in applying to UNC to helping our current students have better information about the course schedule,” McDonald said. “ITS and particularly Kim Vassiliadis were essential in helping us do this. Kim walked us through how to think about different users and solicit input from them.”
“The end product is a website that meets many needs and is much easier to maintain,” McDonald said.
“Working with ITS was very simple,”McDonald added. “Kim had a great knowledge base from all her work across campus on related projects; she also has the technical skills to translate our design goals into reality. Kim’s understanding of departments was also really important. She recognized that many people needed to be consulted and the importance of doing this – even if at times it meant we went slower. I couldn’t be happier with the overall product.”