We’ve been knocking a few holes in the drywall around here. You probably noticed.

Hope on a phoneGenerally speaking, when an organization upgrades its website, they focus on just one element of the process:

  • Refresh the design for a new look, feel and functionality
  • Address strategic changes, like what they’re trying to accomplish with the website or how information is structured and organized
  • Revise content to better address their audience needs or reflect new messaging
  • Implement new processes that clarify roles and workflows throughout the organization

Here at Hope, we’re doing all of the above. Yes, it’s taken some time — a lot of time — but we’re doing more than picking out paint samples and changing out the drapes.

We’re changing the way Hope College communicates online.

Where we started

The majority of Hope College’s web site was designed and developed more than a decade ago. We’ve needed an update for a long time.

Several parts of our website — the home page, the Admissions section and other top-level pages — were re-launched in 2011–12 as an interim solution. Athletics got new digs in 2013. But the majority of the website has intentionally remained unchanged. We knew there were areas of the web site that deserved a significant overhaul and an interim step wasn't going to suffice.

As we’ve been working with these stopgaps over several years, we’ve never forgotten our need to completely overhaul the entire website, from how we think about our users to the content that can help us better meet their needs to what each pixel looks like on the screen.

This work started in earnest in 2013.

Where we've been

In spring 2013, we selected our new content management system (CMS), OU Campus. OU Campus, by Omni Update, is the leading web content management system for higher ed institutions, used more than 700 colleges and universities. We’ve been thrilled with this platform and with our partnership with Omni Update. We’re excited about how this CMS will serve campus users.

In September 2013, we selected our website design partner, Mighty in the Midwest. We love their work, and they’ve been helping us from the initial strategy to the final product. Together, we worked on:

  • Web design focus groups and open forums, including more than 150 faculty, staff, students, alumni, parents and friends (October 2013)
  • 15 user personas and scenarios that help us make informed decisions about who our users are and how we can best serve them (November 2013)
  • A site map to understand how the new content will be structured (December 2013)
  • Style tiles to determine overall design direction (December 2013)
  • Page strategy documents that identify strategic foundation and content recommendations for key areas (January 2014)
  • Wireframes, or blueprints, that clarify what needs to be on the various page types (February 2014)
  • Design concepts, finalizing designs for various page types (March 2014)
  • Web governance, especially in identifying and supporting our content editors (May 2014)
  • Front-end development and testing of the designs (June 2014)
  • Implementing the new design templates into the new CMS (August 2014)

Through it all, we involved feedback from stakeholders on and off campus, as well as a web advisory group assembled with members from each core audience.

During the past year, we realigned internal staffing and created new positions to meet our growing needs. And we started working with people from departments and offices across campus to prepare them for the new site.

In April, we finally started tinkering under the hood and building our “phase one” pages for launch.

And that brings us to today.

Where we are

The new pages you’re seeing now are top tier or “phase one” pages and sections for our initial public launch. These sections cover most of the pages you can get to via the main navigation menu on the top of the page, as well as a couple of other sections like our new online catalog and the pages deeper into the Admissions and development-related sections.

This new website is fully responsive and will adapt to the size of whatever device you’re browsing on — desktop, laptop, tablet or phone. It’s got a fancy new directory and, for the first time, an online catalog. We overhauled our event calendar and added lots of social integration. And our news section pulls into one place the many different ways we’re spreading the word about Hope.

There’s lots of magic working unnoticed behind the curtain, too. It looks pretty, sure, but some of our favorite parts are the things we hope you’ll never notice.

Where we're going

Here’s where we’re not going: Nowhere. In other words, we’re not stopping with our top-tier material like we did back in ’11–12. Yes, we know that many of our pages are still in the old design, and we’ll be taking care of each and every one.

Now that we’ve launched “phase one,” we’re turning our attention back to working with departments and offices. We’ll provide intensive training in the new CMS, work with our partners throughout campus on finalizing their content, and re-launch every part of our website. This will be an ongoing process throughout the ’15–16 academic year.

We’re also taking a fresh look at KnowHope, and will launch a new intranet for the campus community as soon as we can.

There you have it. Things are changing around here, but the biggest change by far is the ways we’re telling the Hope College story.

It’s a great story — and we finally have a website to match.