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UH’s New Home Page Offers Visitors an Engaging, Informative Experience

July 19, 2016–After more than six months of work—planning, research and design—the University of Houston has launched a sleek, user-friendly home page complete with info graphics and videos created to attract and inform audiences.

“The goal of the new home page is to provide an enhanced user experience, one that allows you to navigate the site easily and obtain desired information quickly,” said Lisa K. Holdeman, interim associate vice president for university marketing, communication and media relations (UMCMR). “The updated site contains the same informative material about the University, but presented in a more visually engaging and intuitive way.”

The project was spearheaded by Deana Kreitz, director of web communications in UMCMR. Kreitz discussed the redesign and the process.

Why was the University of Houston home page redesigned?
The web is the most agile and the only University marketing channel that is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year, meaning the website is one of the only marketing channels available all the time to just about any audience in the world. And it’s available at the convenience of the user. Understanding the convenience and reach of the web we know our website should be intuitive and represent the image of UH as the ultimate brand statement for the institution. Were we representing UH on the web in the best way?  The answer was no. There are obvious changes that needed to be made to improve the user experience and reputation of UH. That’s why we started the redesign project. 

Describe the homepage's new design?
We wanted to enhance the basics, like navigation and content through a more modern, engaging design and cleaner, more intuitive interface. Hopefully, we are engaging the user with our strong creative, info graphics and videos. We also wanted to create a more mobile-friendly page because we know that is how most new visitors are or soon will be viewing our site, remember it’s at their convenience and nothing is more convenient than a smart phone. We’ve cut down on content-heavy pages and created content-rich pages with more icons and clearly identified content buckets to help the user navigate the pages as well as find the information they are looking for quickly and easily.

Has the functionality improved? If so, how? 
The only small functionality improvement is that now people will be able to search the entire website or very specific websites within the web ecosystem.

What divisions/departments were involved in the redesign project?  
This was a shared project across many divisions and departments with all parties understanding and driving toward the one goal of creating a better website for our users. The project would not have been possible without the constituents and our strong relationship with University Information Technology. Because of this collaboration, I think we created a superior product. The division of University Marketing, Communication and Media Relations has such a strong web team as well. Rainer Schusler did an amazing job leading the design. Edu Balingasa worked on the updated University calendar, and Celeste Hayes directed the project as a whole. 

How long did the staff work on the project? 
The redesign project has been in the works for about six months. With this launch, we won’t be finished either. If the website was a novel, we’ve addressed the cover, introduction pages and table of contents. We still have all of the chapters to assess and we’ll need to address that quickly because the difference will be more apparent than it is was before.

Did you work with a focus group? 
Of course. As you should do with any major project on the web, we did some user testing, reviewed our analytics and had the advantage of fresh eyes on the site. User testing is important because when you’re too close to the project or subject matter you are often blind to errors, gaps and inconsistencies. User testing exposes many of these and provides good insight into what the user really wants, not just what we want to give them. We did user testing with current and future students, faculty and staff. We’ll continue to test as we make improvements just to make sure we’re meeting our goals.

Will the new design be used on departments/colleges webpages?
If a department or college is in the content management system (CMS), it will receive headers and footers that will provide more flexibility around look and feel. The goal was to give our internal users the ability to express their own “identity” on the web while keeping our external user experience consistent and reinforcing our University brand and credibility. We’re on a great path to meeting that goal across the entire website.  

By Francine Parker