After scrapping a brand new website for inaccessibility, CHHS partnered with us on a Wordpress Multisite that sets the standard for inclusive web design on campus.
Recovering From a Painful Redesign
In 2015, Colorado State University’s College of Health and Human Sciences kicked off an internal web development project. They were looking for a modern, responsive, and accessible site to represent their existing brand. They created a custom Wordpress theme, developed the templates, redid all of their content, and migrated all 800+ pages over into the new site.
After two years of work, their team met with WebAIM’s accessibility consultants and learned that, in order to meet WCAG 2.0 AA accessibility standards — a key goal of the project, and an important legal consideration for all colleges and universities in the U.S. that receive federal funding — their site would need to be completely re-engineered.
So they made the tough decision to abandon the project and start over from scratch.
This time, though, accessibility would be baked in from the start. They searched for an external vendor partner and asked us to help with a new redesign, working alongside WebAIM for ongoing collaboration and periodic check-ins.
From Many Sites, One
CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences is home to a diverse range of programs and learning spaces, from a human performance clinical research facility to a fermentation science lab. (Yes, you can get a degree in making beer and cheese.)
The college encompasses more than 30 centers, institutes, and programs, and more than 4,700 students are enrolled in its 11 undergraduate majors.
“We have eight units in our college, each with its own website. A complaint from our dean over the past seven years has been that while all of our sites look like they belong in CHHS, there’s no clear path back to the college site,” explained Jennifer Garvey, the team lead for the project for CHHS. “That was one of the priorities we brought to the NewCity team.”
The design and the CMS had to balance specific needs of individual units and programs — everything from construction management to food science to gerontology to interior architecture and design — while still uniting the college under a single umbrella.
The thread that ties all their programs together is their mission of helping people. So our strategy was to unify the college’s digital presence by giving them tools to tell the stories of all the ways students and faculty work with people in their communities.
Our research helped identify prospective students as their primary target audience — something that was a shift for the departmental site content, which had a strong internal focus. And we wrote a messaging strategy to help them apply a voice that supports their institutional values (for example, addressing students directly across the site by using “you” instead of “the student” does a lot more to prove you’re “student-focused” than just saying so on the About page).
To support their centralized-yet-segmented structure, we crafted a WordPress Multisite hosted on WPEngine that would allow content managers in each unit to easily manage their specific areas within the framework of a single college website.