Drexel University's design college, the College of Media Arts & Design or CoMAD, has long been in need of a modern website to represent the excellent instruction that goes on everyday. Although I'm quite biased (being part of the Digital Media program), CoMAD is a nationally accredited school and well-respected in academic circles.
This project has been a dream for me. Just under a year ago, CoMAD approached local design firm Electronic Ink with the prospect of redesigning and rebuilding the site. The large team working on this project—designers Jon Aldinger, James Dunn, Adam Little, and Jaime Vásquez, with human factors analyst Greg Urban and technologist Tony Ballas—spent a lot of time researching the appropriate solutions for a site like this. Over the last year, a lot of work across many different disciplines have been done to make this site a success. Here are some of the standouts:
The initial phases of research included student and parent surveys, a design and usability assessment, comparative analyses, and tests of the old site with users to see which areas could be improved. Based on this research, the information architecture was heavily revised, and we tested paper mockups of the initial redesign to see how users responded to the changes. Finally, the finished redesign was tested again for final quality assurance.
Until this version of the site, each program and department had their own, unique look and feel. Although this helped to distinguish each section, it hurt the overall coherence of the college and created inconsistencies. One of our big thrusts was to create an identity that could stand alone, but still contributed to the idea of a uniform CoMAD.
Because of the large amount of categories for users to navigate through, we decided that Flash was an appropriate solution. However, a lot of time was spent developing a functionality very similar to an application, as opposed to the stereotypical online "Skip Intro" gratuity. The technology is used to supplement the user experience, a seemingly lost art as far as Flash is concerned. The backend is driven by XML, which makes this nav very easy to update for those unfamiliar with the Flash authoring environment.
Another result of the initial research showed that student work was a major attraction for incoming students, but most university websites keep it relatively hidden. For the CoMAD site, we wanted to make that section unobtrusive, yet still remain prominent to those searching for it. This Flash module is also powered by XML, and, for those that are interested, it contains a full-screen feature to engage the work a little more closely.
All in all, the CoMAD site was a chance for everyone involved to flex their design, technical, and intellectual muscles. I proudly announce the new College of Media Arts & Design web site.