A newly updated, widely accessible and high-powered Clemson.edu went live on Aug. 5, marking the first major update to the website since 2013. The online launch ushers in a new era of accessibility for Clemson’s flagship digital platform. Through modern design treatments and robust storytelling, the updated site further fortifies the prominence of Clemson University’s people, programs and research.
The Clemson.edu redesign project was launched in 2018 by Clemson’s University Relations division, followed by 18 months of in-depth research, extensive user testing and broad creative and content development.
“Overall, we have concentrated on taking a user-focused approach to this website redesign,” said Mandi Hix, director of web design services for University Relations. “The goal from the beginning has been to reimagine our pages and all their content so that we’re putting users first.”
Key to this effort was the web team’s collaboration with Clemson University Accessibility Coordinator Dan Lewis, ensuring that the site exceeds all 13 Web Content Accessibility Guidelines as they are currently adopted by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.
“That was a challenge for our team, but it’s very rewarding to know that we are one of only a few universities making accessibility a top priority,” Hix said. “When you design for accessibility, it gives everyone, not just those with disabilities, a better experience.”
As a component of that readability, the new Clemson.edu is relevant, highly optimized and powerfully shared with a bright new creative palette that includes brilliant colors, modern fonts, iconic images and compelling stories. All of this improves not only aesthetics but also accessibility.
The web redesign includes major changes both to the front-end presentation and back-end functionality of the site. Phase I of the redesign was applied to the site’s top-level marketing pages, effective August 2020; subsequent updates will roll out at the college, unit and departmental level in coming months.
The site’s forward-facing, more visual updates include:
- Updated typography with a new collection of exceptionally legible yet modern fonts.
- A broader, more deeply saturated color palette designed to both highlight Clemson’s brilliance and to improve readability of digital text.
- Branded photography, videography and iconography that illustrate the diverse tapestry of people, places and experiences that define Clemson.
- Content headers that allow users to consume information more easily and with less frustration.
- Branded, emotional storytelling designed to emphasize the unique Clemson experience and the meaningful, significant work that happens here, positively impacting communities, the state and the world.
- Universal navigation across all webpages that allows users to navigate and more easily locate the information that they are looking for — wherever they are on the site.
- Improved subnavigation that connects college/department websites more closely to the internal website.
- More intuitive and consistent breadcrumbs, which are just another way to help a user understand where they are within the section and within the overall site, preventing them from getting “lost.”
Extensive back-end improvements and updates may not be as noticeable to the average visitor to Clemson.edu. However, these changes mark significant improvements for accessibility, searchability and navigation, including:
- The elimination of duplicative content to improve Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and to streamline the efforts of those who maintain webpages.
- Research-based SEO and keyword research incorporated into web writing.
- User testing and focus groups with stakeholders and independent users alike to inform site content and navigation.
- Ongoing monitoring of Google analytics data to continue learning how and where people arrive at clemson.edu.
- A robust content strategy development built with extensive research into user experience.
- Highly descriptive alt-text that makes every word, image, video and graphic understandable and enjoyable for everyone. This includes video descriptions that explain what is happening even when no one is speaking.
As the “digital front door” for Clemson University, Clemson.edu highlights the academic excellence of a top-ranked national public university. The site showcases exclusive academic experiences that students enjoy starting the moment they arrive on campus, and it spotlights the work faculty and staff do daily to engage and support the Clemson academic journey.
“Clemson seeks out the best and the brightest to work, teach and learn here, and our primary website serves as a front door to many seeking to learn more about Clemson,” said Mark Land, vice president of University Relations. “Making our web experience appealing and accessible to a diverse and growing community of students, educators and other stakeholders is of paramount importance. This gorgeous update to the site sends a strong signal about the type of forward-looking and exciting university we all represent, and I couldn’t be more proud of the team for their work.”
In addition to Hix, the University Relations web team consists of Senior Web Developer Jon Harp, Web Developer Alan Horwatt, and UI Web Designers Austin Williams and Weatherly White-Webb. Digital Editor Lainey Graham and Content Strategist Crystal Bennett, along with a broad marketing brand strategy team, also worked with the developers and designers to bring the redesign online.
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