To make Virginia Tech’s “electronic front door” — the website www.vt.edu — easier for people to use, the university launched today a new design for the most visible areas of its website. The new design, which represents another element of the university's "Invent the Future" branding initiative, combined with new functionalities and site architecture, will greatly improve access to information, resources, and programs of the university.

The redesign incorporates many technological enhancements and new features, including an expanded and more comprehensive Virginia Tech News site; a “blended” search engine; a new “where we are” section; and a new homepage “spotlight” feature—the visual centerpiece of the redesigned homepage. The latter highlights various subjects illustrating Virginia Tech’s innovation, achievement, and impact. New spotlight elements will be introduced every week.

“Virginia Tech’s website is, in many ways, our face to the world,” said Larry Hincker, associate vice president for university relations. “With more than a quarter million unique visitors each month, more people interact with Virginia Tech through our website than by any other means.”

From the onset of the project, which began last year, the goals were to improve website usability and functionality, develop a stronger visual and technological foundation, and more effectively communicate Virginia Tech's story and opportunities, Hincker said.

“Users will notice improved site navigation, a more consistent look and feel to the site, more photos and images of campus, and a wider use of color. It is a website our community will be proud of.”

University Relations worked collaboratively with the Information Technology division and webmasters throughout the university to assess needs and develop operating guidelines. The resulting partnership embarked on a methodical process to determine a new direction for Virginia Tech's next-generation website.

Long before design concepts were developed, dozens of website audience members were interviewed, website usage patterns were analyzed, a thorough audit of website content was completed, and behavior models were developed. With this information, Web designers then developed and tested several design concepts before the university settled on the selected design.

In coming months, other areas of Virginia Tech's Web presence will begin to adopt this new look. University Relations will distribute Web development guidelines, as well as standard templates and styles, to the wider university community in late August. In 2007, the university will implement an enterprise content management system, which will facilitate more concerted web development efforts across campus.

“By placing the needs of website visitors first in the development process, Virginia Tech has established a user-centered approach to Web development,” said Hincker. “We now have a bottom-up process in place to assist and guide website redevelopment throughout the university community and encourage others to adopt the new formats.”

Founded in 1872 as a land-grant college, Virginia Tech is the most comprehensive university in the Commonwealth of Virginia and is among the top research universities in the nation. Today, Virginia Tech’s eight colleges are dedicated to quality, innovation, and results through teaching, research, and outreach activities. At its 2,600-acre main campus located in Blacksburg and other campus centers in Northern Virginia, Southwest Virginia, Hampton Roads, Richmond, and Roanoke, Virginia Tech enrolls more than 28,000 undergraduate and graduate students from all 50 states and more than 100 countries in 180 academic degree programs.