In late 2016, Tulane University launched a new website.
When people think of Tulane, they think of New Orleans. Take a closer look, and you’ll find an institution deeply connected to its city and a university with public service in its DNA.
The new site is a fresh, distinct, and highly usable representation of this top-ranked research institution — one of just 62 members of the Association of American Universities. A new research landing page makes it clear that Tulane solves some of society’s most complex challenges by combining “intellectual muscle with an entrepreneurial mindset.”
Rachel Hoormann is the executive director of university web communications, and it was my distinct pleasure to observe her leadership of the website redesign at Tulane. Rachel has been the linchpin of tulane.edu since 2000, and 16 years of knowledge about her institution allowed her to be a masterful leader and visionary for the website project. She understood the challenges of a large, universitywide initiative and was adept at listening and collaborating. She also understood the needs of internal stakeholders and responded in ways that built enthusiasm for a new set of web templates for use by schools across the university. You can see Rachel in action on Higher Ed Live’s Centralized Decentralization.
Rachel and I chat regularly about our work together, and recently I asked her three questions to summarize her impressions about the redesign project.
Q1: What comments did you get on launch day?
Rachel: From a current undergraduate, “I like the new website. It feels more modern and updated. Also it seems that it has more flow and easy access to the links I want to view.”
From a staff member, “Congratulations on a GORGEOUS website!! OMG!! What a joy to navigate through it!”
From an alumnus, “Interesting, I was just going to look at the website to point out ‘how not to design a website’ to a colleague. But the new site is vastly improved. It looks simple, clean, and modern. Well done!”
Q2: You’re likely to give advice to others who are planning a website redesign project. What will you say about project leadership? What skills and characteristics are are needed to lead a redesign?
Rachel: It’s really important to have support from the top of your organization. It’s much easier to get all the other web staff around campus on board, when your president and other leaders are backing the project with the deans. Your job will require a lot of diplomacy as well as open-mindedness. It’s important to listen to people’s feedback and act on good ideas when you hear them. Being organized is also vital. The way mStoner manages a redesign helped immensely with that. It is a model I am following for the school sites that my team is working on now.
Q3. What was the biggest surprise during the project?
Rachel: In usability testing we explored how our target audience would respond to the Research section. I was very pleasantly surprised to see how engaged the testers were with that section. It inspired me to expand the section.
Let’s celebrate the Tulane team for its fantastic work!
- Rachel Hoormann, executive director of university web communications
- James Crump, web communications manager
- Taryn Pusateri, university web designer
- Kathryn Hobgood Ray, assistant director of web communications