UC Berkeley News
Web Feature

UC Berkeley Press Release

New UC Berkeley gateway website debuted Saturday, June 14

–After an eight-year run, UC Berkeley's current main website was replaced by a newly redesigned gateway site that debuted Saturday, June 14. The new site is the fourth distinct version of www.berkeley.edu since its debut in 1995.

"Berkeley's gateway site is an incredibly bustling place, with people stopping by the home page 3.5 million times a month on their way to millions of other files at berkeley.edu," said Karen Holtermann, executive director of University Communications in Public Affairs, which manages the campus home page and created the new gateway site. "Our goal is to get people to the information they need fast, and to make sure they get to experience the excitement, activity, and excellence of UC Berkeley on the way.

"The new site is built on solid research, testing, and loads of feedback from users," she added. "We're proud to roll it out."

The main website serves as a virtual Sather Gate for the campus, a front door that must provide easily navigable pathways to the more than 40 million files online at UC Berkeley. The new site has been designed to allow quicker, surer paths to information, including more direct links on the home page. In addition, new pathways have been added for specific audiences, taking users directly to useful links for students, prospective students, staff, faculty, alumni, and parents.

A new toolbox appears at the top of every page, allowing users to search the Berkeley web, find people in the campus directory, and search an archive of some 10,000 UC Berkeley NewsCenter files. The toolbox also includes links to CalMail (the campus e-mail system) and campus maps.

Both a switchboard and crossroads, the gateway site handles an impressive traffic load. According to the web-traffic ranking site Alexa.com, berkeley.edu is consistently one of world’s three most visited university sites. The main campus website accounts for a significant slice of that activity, tallying 3.5 million views of the home page and 8.02 million views of other gateway-site files in April 2008.

New features abound

The site is a showcase window to the university, says Jeffery Kahn, who managed the redesign project. "First and lasting impressions of the university, particularly for prospective students, often are created by its home page. The site must reflect the vitality and beauty of the campus, the diversity and spectrum of the academic enterprise, and the public purpose of UC Berkeley. We've tried to shape the new site to these purposes," he said.

In addition to Kahn, Public Affairs' redesign team included web team members Melani King, Steve McConnell, Cathy Cockrell, Sara Leavitt, and former team member Bonnie Powell; John Hickey, Lynn Millwood, and Kathryn Bader of the Public Affairs design group assisted.

Look for these new elements on the redesigned site:

  • A featured photo on the home page changes daily, with an initial palette of a dozen images. The photographic spotlight will cover the breadth of the campus, from the classroom and lab to the library and athletic field.
  • A set of quick links throughout the site provides fast-track navigation to heavily used sites.
  • An expanded news and events section on the home page "enhances our ability to highlight and give prominence to major Berkeley news and events," says Kahn.
  • A new online history of UC Berkeley was written for the site by Cathy Cockrell. She includes segments on the 19th-century founding of UC's first campus, campus architecture, research discoveries and contributions, the tradition of activism and engagement at Berkeley, the evolving profile of the student body, and a timeline of discoveries and contributions from the 1870s to the present.
  • A new Facts at a Glance page pulls together frequently requested campus statistics.
  • Coding makes the new site fully accessible to those who are blind and use a screen reader.

Change built on research and feedback

Extensive research, testing, and interaction with the campus community guided and shaped the redesign process, said Kahn.

Planning for the site began with an online survey; 2,100 users responded to say how they use the current site and what information they use most often. The Public Affairs team then analyzed sites at peer universities; studied data on the current site, examining how it is used, most commonly entered search terms, and statistics on where visitors look most often for information; and conducted focus groups with students, staff, faculty, alumni, and the public.

Using these findings, a barebones site with new information architecture was created, "usability testing" was conducted, and the site was revised based on the tests. Finally, Melani King crafted a design that integrated all the elements into the site, creating an elegant new web front door to the university.

The campus directory (also known as the People Finder) has also been redesigned to fit the new look of the gateway site. "A while ago, we determined that the directory would be more user-friendly if it integrated more with the Berkeley home page, especially considering that a good number of users go to the Berkeley home page to initiate a lookup," said IST's Lucas Rockwell. "The home page redesign provided the perfect opportunity for integrating the directory into this new look and feel."

Comments and feedback on the new gateway site are welcome and can be submitted via an online form. Additional information about the history of the gateway site, including screenshots of earlier iterations, is online.