The visitor center was redesigned in 2004 as Capella University underwent a complete rebranding. Marketing performed extensive audience analysis to determine who our prospective learners are and what questions they had. The first version of the homepage devoted a large amount of real estate to a branded photo as well as four different boxes that answered the most common questions.

After working with Jason Galep to finalize the design, I had the task of building out the basic framework for the site. The web strategies group was available to fill in the content and create the bulk of the pages, however they had little experience with XHTML and CSS. So not only did I have to sell the marketing department on the benefits of SEO and accessibility, I also had to convince the web strategies group that it would be just as easy to work with standards-compliant code. I ended up building it transitional with tables used for the basic layout, and holding a training session to familiarize the developers with the code.

While the site was being built out, we conducted several usability sessions at a formal usability lab. Overall, we found that our users could perform their tasks easily and in less clicks than on the previous site. However we did make changes to some of the information architecture and navigation labels based on observation and feedback.

In the months after our initial launch we tracked statistics and gained more feedback on the site. We found that giving equal weight to each of the common questions was not effective and that our large brand photo was having minimal impact. I proposed that we replace this static photo with a flash piece to highlight our learner stories and in early 2005 we launched a redesigned homepage (this time, table-free). Since then, I have worked with Kevin Davis to make several refinements to the visitor center design to bring it to its current state. Credit also goes to Andrew Gruhn for building the flash piece so that it can be updated through an XML file.

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