Sacramento City College
User Experience, Information Architecture & Visual Design
Sacramento City College is the oldest public two-year college in the area. The school provides low-cost transfer studies and professional development courses to a diverse student body. The SCC student body ranges from teens to retirees, across a spectrum of technical and language skills. The site also had to serve the administrators and content editors that would interact with the back-end.
The structure of a large college campus runs deep, ranging from administrative and student services to academics, athletics and social services. The school's first website, built in the late 1990s, was still in use in 2012 and had not adapted with campus growth. Its structure and organization suffered from too much unstructured information trapped in an outdated content management system. Nearing accreditation review, the school was overdue a rethinking of its web presence. What had been an impossible deposit of random files would now serve as an asset to a mobile-first campus.
Teaching web design at SCC at the time, I joined two other full time instructors and a student in spearheading the project. A monumental documenting and re-mapping of existing content within an intuitive hierarchy proved of critical importance. We drew on a campus-wide survey of user priorities and challenges. Our small team met weekly with representatives from across campus, reimagining the 9,600-page site from the ground up.
Extensive mind-mapping and card sorts pared the glut of information into manageable pieces. Indexing content areas for relevance, remaining sections were edited and moved. With these funnels created, our team built section-by-section site maps, page wireframes and paper prototypes. The content sharpened to a users’ specific needs in a progressively-specific logic.
After working with the design team for two years, governance shifted away from design, handing the project off to development. Despite receiving approval to organize the site in a flow mirroring the school’s org chart, we learned that this structure could not be permitted. Staffing is such that sections needed to overlap to reflect job descriptions. These changes undid much of the work we had done, but unfortunately did not return to design. Although selecting my proposed visual design, it could not accommodate many of the critical revisions made after the fact. As I would imagine is the case with most large organizations, project management juggled too many competing stakeholders for the site to live up to its potential.
Although I am disappointed with where the site is now, the SCC website won a Silver Medal at the NCMPR Regional Awards in 2015. The award recognizes excellence for all 2-year colleges in the western United States.