Introduction to Websites
The Conference & Event Services group at U-M handles a wide variety of on-campus event management. Though the group supports everything from small department meetings to lavish weddings, they started out with no website to call their own.
Clearly, I had to get busy. During the first phase of the project, I worked with the client to create a logical organization for the site. Since the group was new to owning an own online presence, though, I knew I had to explain our thinking to the client so that everyone would understand terminology and reasoning behind decisions. So, my work began by developing a straightforward presentation that established website personas and site wireframes. This allowed us to have more meaningful discussions as the project went on.
Early on, we agreed to emphasize each audience group that the client served by using those groups to create the site’s navigation. Since the tone of voice, photography, and even frontend features would need to vary greatly between them, I encouraged the client to use these natural groupings.
From that, I then presented high-fidelity mockups to the team. This is also where I began identifying a few features of the site, like audience-specific photos and reusable content, enabling targeted marketing while promoting efficiency.
The hierarchy of this site emphasizes two levels of pages: an Inspiration page and a Detail page.
Each audience group has one Inspiration page that acts as a high-level overview. This page describes all the applicable services that Conference & Event Services offers in an inspiring way.
From that overview page, site visitors can then get details about each service on the Detail pages. This is the point where users receive more information about different choices and offerings. Since C&ES has lots to cover for each service they provide, presenting the information in this way keeps everything manageable.
Jack of All Trades
I was both the head designer and head programmer of the site, so my challenges during the project varied widely. At one point, I was manually tweaking a webfont to fix its vertical spacing; at another point, I was interacting with a Microsoft SQL Server database so I could display room rental data in a friendly way.
During the whole thing, I completed informal QA sessions and formal user testing. That coincided with several client meetings along the way to ensure that we were on track for a successful launch together.
How It’s Doing and Where to Go Next
Having a central website system has proven effective for C&ES. When compared to the group’s previous setup (which was merely a collection of pages on other University websites), I’ve seen a 15 percent increase in traffic overall and a 20 percent increase in people who are visiting our site for the first time.
My biggest priority on the site is to do some cleanup—in frontend code, copy, and photos alike—so that everything is as effective and relevant as possible. That’s in addition to the involved task of hooking into room reservation schedules, allowing customers to book spaces right within the site.