November 30, 2013

New UNL website design unveiled

Concept is content driven, mobile friendly and youth oriented

The curtain has been raised on the next generation of UNL website design.

Dubbed “Web 4.0,” the new design is optimized for mobile devices, automatically adjusts to span the width of any Web browser page, offers expanded room for content and is youth oriented. And, while the concept won’t roll out across campus websites until January, you can get a sneak peak on the Hixson-Lied Fine and Performing Arts website,

“This is definitely a website designed to inspire students,” said Amber Williams, director of admissions. “Our websites are the No. 1 thing students look at when they want to learn more about the university. Knowing that, this design is especially important as we continue to grow our student population.”

The design was developed via collaboration between Admissions, University Communications, UNL’s Web Developer’s Network, Fine and Performing Arts and the youth marketing agency Archrival.

The concept includes two shifts in design — it is designed for mobile devices first, automatically detecting how the page is being viewed and resizing images and other content as needed; and it pushes borders to the width of the browser page, allowing more room for content and making better use of widescreen displays.

“In the creation of this, University Communications and Archrival conducted focus groups and research into what students are looking for in a website,” said Chuck O’Connor, dean of Fine and Performing Arts. “The first thing we learned is being mobile friendly is a must as more and more students are accessing university websites on mobile devices rather than the home computer.”

That fact is also mirrored in the type of visits UNL websites track. According to Bob Crisler, director of Internet and interactive media, the use of mobile devices has grown from 2.5 percent of all UNL website visits in August 2010 to 19.1 percent in August 2013.

The focus groups also showed that students want to quickly see what programs are available within a college. If their program is available, the students move on to exploring more about the college culture, instructor biographies, alumni experiences and affordability.

Fine and Performing Arts opted for website content that includes a cast of current students as the lead elements (see story on Page 1). O’Connor said the plan is to rotate a new cast of students every year to keep the website content from becoming stagnant.

“These students are our brand ambassadors,” said Jemalyn Griffin, assistant director of recruitment for Fine and Performing Arts. “Eighty-five percent of students will accept a recommendation from someone they trust. So, we are featuring these students to help build that trust, offering recommendations and drawing more potential students in to check out what fine and performing arts at UNL has to offer.”

Williams said that while the student cast works for Fine and Performing Arts, it is not a required element for all college websites.

“This new website design is not one size fits all — which is one of the great things about it,” Williams said. “Fine and Performing Arts is using content that fits it best. It will be up to each individual college to decide how to translate its own unique culture onto the website.”

Williams stressed that each college should consider conducting focus groups and data collection to learn who their students are and what they want out of a college education.

Crisler said the new website design will go live on the majority of UNL websites on or after Jan. 10. He expects the transition will continue through the spring semester.

UNL web developers with questions or concerns can access the Web Developer Network website,, for more information or attend the group’s regular meeting at 2 p.m. on the second Tuesday of each month in the Nebraska Union.

“We’ve already started to receive positive feedback on the new design,” Williams said. “Reworking our websites will not only help attract prospective undergraduates. It will also inspire alumni and other who are proud of this university. It can also help draw prospective faculty and staff, showing them this is a vibrant, exciting place to work.

“This redesign is a real opportunity to re-engage with individuals who want to know about or be a part of UNL.”