by Stewart Foss
In September Denver Seminary launched a redesigned version of their website. The following is a Q & A with DJ Turner, the Director of Communications in the Advancement office at Denver Seminary.
This version of the site launched on September 25, 2007.
Late in 2006, Denver Seminary held focus groups consisting of various students, staff and faculty. While the web site was only a portion of the discussion, those who participated unanimously agreed that we needed a new web site. Our previous web site was described as being more of a bulletin board with lots of information, but information that was difficult to find. I have attached a screen shot of the home page of our old web site to help put the changes into perspective.
I was hired in February of 2007, and one of my first major projects was to completely overhaul the web site. We started with outlines of what we wanted and what type of functionality we wanted, and then we began interviewing different web developers. In May 2007, we decided to go with Monk Development in San Diego who contracted with DesignWise Studios for the design work. From the information architecture that I developed to the site map that DesignWise and I continually fine tuned, the site began to take shape in .psd files. Once the overall look and feel were established, Monk developed all of the style sheets and backend stuff needed to make the designs a reality.
Our biggest goal was to make it easier for visitors to find the information they wanted and to take our web site from a "bulletin board" to a "billboard" that would point the way to important and relevant information. We wanted something that accurately and attractively reflects who we are.
The project began around May 1 of 2007 and the site launched on September 25, 2007. While we are still fine tuning portions of the site, it is fully functional.
On Denver Seminary's end, there was a team of about 8 people who met regularly to talk about web site usability. There was a student work study who helped a lot in converting content from the old web site to the new site, and one person in our IT department who helped with DNS and security issues. However, on Denver Seminary's end, the bulk of the work was done and most of the decisions were made by me.
DesignWise consists of one person, Mark Priestap, though he did contract with someone to help with the initial wire frames prior to doing the actual layout. Mark is a gifted designer was great to work with.
Monk's team consists of 9 people, though I worked primarily with 3 of them on this project. Monk has also been (and continues to be) amazing to work with.
I am most proud of the transformation from the old site to the new design. It is a pretty dramatic difference. I love the site and am very proud of the way it looks and how things are organized. (see a before and after)
I think we accomplished our primary objective. The users who have commented on the site, besides thinking that it's gorgeous, have all said that it's much easier to use than the old site. Any time you can accomplish goals like that, it's a good thing.
One of the challenges we faced was the content conversion. There were hundreds of pages to transport and reformat, including many that needed to be formatted pretty specifically (especially the Denver Journal section of our web site).
Our site is the largest that Monk has developed. Making sure we had the functionality and flexibility we needed was probably the biggest challenge that we faced. I think Monk made a lot of revisions to their system as a result of our specific needs, but I hope that those changes benefited their other customers as well. While it was challenging at times, I'm very happy with the way things have turned out.
There are a million more decisions to make in overhauling a web site than I ever dreamed possible. From the littlest details to the things that may impact the whole Seminary, the decisions never ended. I learned a lot about how the Seminary functions (I didn't have higher ed experience when I came to work here). I also think this web site opened a lot of doors for improved communications between departments. It's funny how having something that the whole campus can be proud of can rally everyone together.
Ekklesia (the CMS for our site) and its API use PHP (with a MySQL database).
Yes. Ekklesia 360 which was created and developed by Monk.
So far, the only other URLs are all design-related sites (a few of which are listed below). Monk does have a short blurb on their site (http://www.monkdevelopment.com/our-work/).
Are you feeling the itch? Do you want to participate in a future 3 things? Do you have an article or how-to that wants to be published? Drop me a note and you may get your wish.