Our partnership with WebLion has made it possible for us to bring good Web content to the forefront. When you've got relevant, easy-to-reach content, site visits go through the roof. Users are telling us what they're looking for, and we provide it.
—Chris More, Associate Director of Web Communications, College of Agricultural Sciences
In 2008, the College of Agricultural Science's 12-year-old Web presence had become inconsistent, arduous to navigate, and largely unmaintainable.
It was even more difficult to gauge which information site visitors valued—and which information they never read.
Myriad content issues combined with faulty data collection meant that site usage statistics were inexact at best. Collecting qualitative data on users' activities and needs—testing, surveying, interviewing—was also missing from the decision-making process.
Here's how the Ag Sciences Web team turned this around...
Making Users a Part of the Picture
This immediately addressed many navigation and searchability issues as well as issues of content maintenance and quality.
Just as important, it paved the way for collecting reliable data on how users experience Ag Sciences' Web sites—and continually improving that experience.
277 sites consolidated into to 189 and migrated to Plone in 2009-2010
- Number of Site Visitors up 28 percent
- Number of Page Views up 33 percent
- Revised site live in Plone, February 2009
- Number of page views double
- Revised site live in Plone, May 2009
- Number of site visitors double
- Number of page views triple
- Now the #1 site in the College, with 25 percent of all traffic
Site Analytics: Find Out What Content is Hot...and What's Not
Using Google Analytics, the College now harvests detailed statistics showing who is visiting its sites and what information those visitors are seeking. Regular analysis of these statistics helps determine the relevance of content as well as helping to reveal user behavior. Popular content is brought to the forefront. Content that is NOT being looked at gets revised. Or retired.
Surveys and Interviews Give Users a Voice
Organizations cannot really know their target audiences without talking to them—about their information needs, what they expect to accomplish online, and their points of frustration.
The Ag Sciences Web team gathers this information in many different ways: Analyzing phone calls and e-mailed requests, conducting surveys, and interviewing individuals and groups.
It's a matter of asking clear questions and listening to what users say.
Usability Testing Locates the Potholes
Usability Testing—a technique for evaluating a Web interface by closely observing how users interact with it—often yields surprising results. Usability tests can reveal inherent stumbling blocks and weaknesses that aren't obvious to you and your Web team. Ag Sciences makes continuous improvements to the College's Web presence using results of these tests.
Incorporating Industry Standards, Recommended Practices
Working with the WebLion team and benefiting from more than 10 years of usability expertise that has been part of Plone's development, the College's Web team has incorporated usability, accessibility, and content standards based on an enormous amount of research into its practices.
A Solid Communications Strategy
Data collected on user activity and requirements now drives the creation and placement of content on agsci.psu.edu.
The result is a Web presence that clearly presents the College's extensive and unique services and information—in ways that best meet its audiences' needs.