Dalhousie announced its biggest web project in more than a decade last fall, and a lot has happened both behind the scenes and through multiple stakeholder touchpoints in the five months since.
Now, the university is welcoming a new partner on board as it takes the next steps in shaping a new dal.ca. Creative services agency Domain7 joins the project this month to support the discovery, direction and design of Dal’s new website.
The multi-year project is more than just a redesign of the web properties that live on dal.ca and an upgrade of its content management system. It represents an opportunity to take some major steps forward in improving Dalhousie’s web governance, business processes, author model, content strategy, accessibility, performance, and usability. All of which will lay the groundwork for the kind of meaningful change and significant improvements required to prioritize the website’s long-term success and support the university’s strategic priorities.
Forming data-driven plans
Transforming the university’s web presence has been an area of cross-functional interest at Dal for some time and is reflected in the work that is underway to form an overarching digital strategy for the university. The importance of providing a modern, responsive, and accessible web experience for users was further emphasized in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which prompted a swift shift to remote learning and working for faculty, staff, and students a year ago.
When the dal.ca web renewal project team set out to engage with the Dal community to gather feedback on Dalhousie’s foremost public-facing digital property, they expected a strong response. But they didn’t quite anticipate the incredible amount of participation and insights that would come out of the initial round of consultation and engagement efforts. That process included a Dal community-wide user survey that received 806 responses, a web author survey that received 175 responses, and a series of 23 information and engagement sessions with faculty and staff groups across campus that attracted 580 participants.
The mix of both qualitative and quantitative data collected was then distilled into themes that capture the top priorities for both dal.ca and the project’s success factors. These robust findings will help inform and guide the project as it moves forward into the upcoming discovery phase.
Announcing a new agency partner
In addition to the wealth of user, web author, and stakeholder-sourced information that has been synthesized to-date, the outcomes of the project’s planning phase include the successful RFP process that brought Domain7 on board this month.
As the web renewal project’s agency partner, Domain7 will draw from and build upon the initial findings to better understand the needs of dal.ca’s various users and apply their learnings to strategies and recommendations that will shape the future of dal.ca’s design, functionality, and navigability.
Domain7 is a people-centric digital services and product agency with offices in British Columbia and the United Kingdom that co-designs and builds purposeful experiences for higher education, public service, and community-focused organizations. Domain7's team will lead the project through a holistic design process with an approach grounded in participation, design thinking, and comprehensive problem-solving that will provide strategies for delivering integrated, transformational digital experiences on dal.ca.
Shawn Neumann, CEO and founder of Domain7, feels that partnering with Dalhousie represents an exciting moment for the agency.
“As an agency deeply committed to working with education and community-focused organizations, coming alongside a historic and leading Canadian institution to revision its digital experience is precisely how we can best live into our values,” says Neumann. “We look forward to bringing our experience and skills to the table and collaborating with Dal to define how its digital presence can be a true extension of the care, service, and storied history of the institution."
Matt Proctor, assistant vice-president of Communications, Marketing & Creative Services, is confident that Domain7 is the right partner for the significant task at hand.
“Domain7 has experience with projects of a similar size in higher-education institutions, are forward-thinking in their approach, and help their clients make decisions based on user needs. Our shared people-centric values will empower us to chart the best path forward for dal.ca,” he says.
Domain7’s work will be implemented by Dal’s Information Technology Services team, who will lead the coding and development in the new content management system, Touch UI.
Getting primed for deeper discovery
To support the upcoming discovery work, the project team has been focused on satisfying several key administrative and logistical outcomes that will set the next phase of the project up for success.
An intensive sitemap and web-author validation process has been underway since mid-January to better understand Dal’s existing web landscape and confirm who is involved in managing, maintaining, and contributing to it across the institution.
As well, a comprehensive plan for supporting site leaders and authors that will include a new and improved myDal site to replace the current Web Team SharePoint site is taking shape.
Web authors can expect to receive further updates in the weeks to come as new resources and planning tools designed with them and the project in mind are made available, and interested stakeholders are encouraged to join the web renewal mailing list to stay informed of project developments.
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