New website launches May 21

Updated front door  for UND targets prospective students, is mobile friendly and ‘visually stunning’

Matt Schill

UND Marketing & Creative Services Web specialist Matt Schill conducts training recently  on the new UND website for University employees. The new website is set to launch May 21. Photo by Tyler Ingham/UND Today.

In a week, “,” the online front door of the University, will be sporting a brand new look and improved functionality.

Tera Buckley, assistant director of UND Marketing & Creative Services, knows that the changes will be for the best.

“It’s going to be very different, but different in a good way,” she said.

On May 21, Buckley and her team will flip the switch on the first wave of updates to the University’s website. She says the biggest changes are its visual features and the way the site will be navigated.

“One of our goals was to have a visually stunning site and I think we’ve done that,” she said. “The site is now more prospective student-focused.”

Every major, minor, certificate or anything else UND offers will be in a new storefront. To find results, students looking for the next step in their education won’t need to know the specific college, department or name of a program. The new program-finder was built to address the most pertinent questions students might have about a program. It even allows students to directly compare program requirements.

“We know the number one decision-making process for prospective students is if we have their program of interest,” Buckley said. “We want to immediately answer if we have the program they want and what it will allow them to do upon graduation. You can browse on-campus or online, you don’t have to go to a separate extended learning site – it’s all in one place.

“The high-impact pages we know prospective students are using, like admissions, applications and financial aid are all included in this first wave.”

Necessary upgrade

This rollout comes after over a year of planning, designing, and coding. The last time received a significant redesign was 2010, and Buckley says it’s far past due for upgrades. The new site has a modernized look and, most importantly, a mobile-friendly interface.

Tera Buckley

Assistant Director of Marketing & Creative Services Tera Buckley presents updates on the UND website redevelopment during March 22 Provost Forum. Photo by Jackie Lorentz/UND Today.

“We’ll see a lot of improvement with organic search, with Google and Bing,” she explained. “We’re being punished in their algorithms because we haven’t been mobile-friendly. It will take a few weeks after the launch, but we’ll see our organic traffic go up significantly.”

“We’ve changed the site navigation to better serve prospective students, but that isn’t to say we aren’t serving faculty and staff,” Buckley said. “They and current students are going to be served in a different way.”

Some of the biggest changes frequent site visitors will notice are the absence of the A-Z Index and the My UND page. On May 21, the index will be integrated into the site’s new universal search bar. With My UND, those functions will be integrated into the main header of the site, including a dedicated drop-bar for the most used campus logins. It’s different nomenclature, but still the same amount of clicks from the homepage.

Showing their stuff

Buckley’s point of excitement in this process is the ability to showcase the University in a new way. The updated designs bring photography and campus imagery to the forefront.

“We have a lot of great program offerings; we have a beautiful campus,” she said. “Finally, our new front door to campus will be as welcoming as the campus itself.”

They’re also trying to say more by saying… less. The current site has around 30,000 pages, a number Buckley says is unacceptable. The standard metric for an institution like UND is one page per student, so her team has spent considerable time cleaning up and deleting outdated, redundant content.

“For example, the extended learning site went from over 3,000 pages to under 500,” Buckley said. “When you have redundant content, your own pages compete against each other in a search. If you have 10 ‘About UND’ pages, it’s likely one of them is accurate and up to date. The rest are probably old and not reflective of what we want to be saying about the University.”

And is the team doing this page by page?

“Absolutely,” she said with a laugh. “We’re prioritizing higher-traffic pages, but everything is getting touched.”

Refined strategy

With respect to the UND Strategic Plan — the administration’s five-year vision for the University — redeveloping serves Goal 3: delivering more educational opportunities online and on-campus.

“When people look at the high-level landing pages, they’ll see that we’ve weaved in strategic initiatives into the content,” Buckley said.

She offered examples such as images that showcase UND as a military-friendly school. The Honors program is showcased. Online education options are at the top of the academics page before breaking down into individual schools and colleges.

“We’ve taken a hard look at the strategic plan, pulled areas that are prospective student-related, and featured them prominently on high-traffic pages,” she said.

As for the launch, Buckley would be the first to tell you May 21 will be a rough day. She expects many things to break and asks for forgiveness on the first day. On subsequent days, she is urging everyone to report run-ins with bugs, inaccuracies and other issues.

“Feedback is extremely valuable,” she said. “We don’t want people to complain amongst themselves. We need our site visitors to fill out a short form and tell us what’s going on.”

On the new pages, a link called “Website Feedback” will take users where they need to go to voice concerns. This includes aspects such as program information in the new program-finder function.

The next wave of updates will occur this fall, and the following updates will be implemented during instructional breaks going into 2019.

To learn more about the effort, visit the project blog.