The university has released a beta site of the newly redesigned This beta represents the next step in the continued evolution of, introducing a new look and features to the home page and many of the pages that link directly from it. The campus community and the public are encouraged to check out the site and give feedback about the new design. The launch of the beta site will be followed by the debut of the new in January 2012.

Along with the launch of the new site in January, new CommonSpot templates will be made available to the CommonSpot user group. With these templates, departments and colleges will be able to take advantage of the new website design and features, although use of these new templates will be voluntary.

The university began work on the redesign of last September when the Web Working Group, a subcommittee of the Web Oversight Committee, was formed. The Web Working Group is comprised of representatives from across the university. The group conducted research to determine what changes needed to be made to the website, to discover current trends in web development, to find out what other universities were doing with their websites, and to decide what needed to be accomplished with the redesign.

Once the goals for the design were established, the Web Working Group began working diligently on the redesign.

This redesign strives to create a wider page design that increases content on the web and takes advantage of higher screen resolutions. The current site has a page width of 770 pixels and it has been that way for about five years. The new website expands to a page width of 960 pixels. Moving to a wider page gives visitors a much more pleasant and readable experience. Photos are larger, font sizes have increased, and there is more space between the various elements on the page so the content is not as crowded.

The redesign also adds enhanced navigation that aligns similar functions such as search, A-Z index, targeted audiences, departments, and directories.

Additionally, the redesign strives to make more ADA compliant to meet federal regulations. By adhering to guidelines and standards recommended by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), ECU web developers ensure that the new website will be accessible. The redesign utilizes a div-based layout instead of tables. Headings are marked up with appropriate “H” tags. Using CSS for the visual layout of the site keeps the presentation and underlying structure separate. Text equivalents for visual content, well-organized navigation mechanisms, consideration for visitors with color blindness, and many other accessibility best practices are also implemented in the new design.

Another exciting addition to is the new toolbox area that allows users to customize their web experiences. This tool, called MyLinks, is a way for anyone with a PirateID to organize the various websites and online tools they use here at ECU. There is a set of default links in the MyLinks feature that includes e-mail, BlackBoard, OneStop, and a few others. Members of the Pirate community have the option to set and organize additional ECU links that are important to them.

The new is designed to take advantage of various social media platforms to better connect visitors to the content on the website. The university has developed several social media platforms—namely Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.

During the launch of the beta site, the Web Working Group will continue to take feedback, analyze it, make changes or updates that improve the website, and finish the final development for a launch of the new in January.

Statistics show that more and more people are accessing than ever before. Typically, during the academic school year, more than three million visitors visit each month. These users visit for a variety of reasons. The website has become a gateway for people to do a number of things online, from enrolling in courses, to taking courses, to paying bills, to giving back to the university.

No matter the reason, plays a vital role in serving the citizens of North Carolina and the rest of the world. The university is proud of all the work that has gone into redesigning and hopes that this redesign creates a better web experience for users.

By Meagan Williford, University Marketing