I’m pleased to announce that another of my long-term projects has launched: the latest redesign of the University of Texas School of Law website. This was the first major refactoring of the information architecture, HTML, and user interface of the site since 2003, and is a significant departure from the visual refresh of 2005. (My other major project was the new UT Law Events Calendar, which launched on the same day — it’s been a busy summer!)
The UT Law site holds anywhere between 3500-6000 pages (depending on how you want to define a “page”) spread amongst dozens of departments and organizations, with very little of the content in a CMS of any kind, and it’s accompanied by a dozen or more in-house custom applications written in three or four different programming languages, so this major change to the code was quite an undertaking. After consulting with our stakeholders, conducting some user testing, and evaluating other top-tier sites, I began the redesign with the intention that we’d need a great foundation to build off of, while retaining enough visual familiarity to the old site to not confuse our users needlessly.
Highlights for this project:
- Brand new HTML5-based templates using clean, semantic markup with hooks for a flexible (but optional) grid-based CSS layout system
- Completely redeveloped visual design, color scheme, and branding, with improved typography and layout
- Newly designed universal UT Law header and footer, improving usability while taking up less vertical real estate
- Standardized look-and-feel for internal law school departments and organizations, along with cleaner information architecture (many URLs have been shortened considerably)
- Easier navigation through simplified, consolidated landing pages
- Google Custom Search Engine integration available across the entire site, letting users search without leaving the UT Law site
- Google Analytics’ new asynchronous code now site-wide, including subdomains, with dual tracking to forward stats on to the main campus Development office
- Lighter HTML, smarter handling of cacheable resources, and browser throughput performance tricks give end users much snappier page load times (who loves image spriting? I do!)
- Universal use of UTF-8 for better foreign language and other specialty character encoding support
Much work remains, however: the content across the site is currently being reevaluated as part of this project, and we will be working hand-in-hand with each department to ensure that the offerings are up-to-date, relevant, better organized, and more media-rich (where appropriate). Also, the homepage is a temporary placeholder while we work with our communications office to develop new material and focus this Fall semester.
Many thanks go out to my supervisor Mark Gunn, teammates Austin Kleon, John Croslin, Brian Borowicz, and awesome student worker Laura Davila for helping with the porting and making sure that everything looked as snazzy as possible for the launch date!