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Achieving Excellence During Website Redesign

5 colleagues fist-bumping over their computers
81%

reduction in broken links


What is the goal of your websites?

The main goal of our websites is to provide information to prospective and current students. We have different distance options and online-only courses, courses you can attend on campus or online, and we have “active learning weekends,” where students are mainly online but come in for one weekend to do intensive work onsite. As the Harvard Extension School, we want to be at the highest standards that we can. We’re continuing education and open enrollment with Harvard courses and faculty. We want to be able to represent ourselves and say, “We are Harvard.”

You’ve recently undergone not one, but two website redesigns. Why is Siteimprove vital to a successful website redesign launch?

Sometimes it’s a matter of just saying, “Well, in production, we need to fix these things.” But it might not get fixed in the development environment. Siteimprove is like a red-flag preview. If you’re seeing things are wrong, Siteimprove lets you know before you go live. We had links that were going to the wrong places, and getting the Siteimprove Reports in the development phase lets you know the state of things before you’re live and scrambling.

Our sites are Drupal websites, and there’s a lot of markup generated by the CMS that isn’t necessarily accessible right out of the box. We have to be conscious both while we’re working and during review to make changes. No amount of eyeballing will enable you alone to identify everything that is and isn’t working during redesign and how to fix it. When you have thousands of pages, you can’t find all of those problems. Siteimprove accomplishes something you couldn’t really do by yourself.

What are your main priorities within the Siteimprove tool?

Accessibility is very important to us, both from a societal and a compliance standpoint. I don’t think accessibility is something that should be neglected. If we have the capability to know what’s working and what isn’t, and we have the capability to address it, I don’t see why we shouldn’t. Even our online courses and the delivery tools we use to make the courses available to students have undergone a lot of accessibility work. It doesn’t make sense to not have an accessible site when we’re trying to make accessibility part of our course offerings. If the technology is there for somebody to use the site, it only makes sense for us to meet what that technology is capable of doing.

How did Siteimprove help you achieve your accessibility goals for the Harvard Extension School and summer website redesigns?

When we brought in the newest version of the extension site, we worked very hard to improve our accessibility numbers as much as we could in Siteimprove before launch. Then after launch, we continued to work on improvements. Now that we’re in the summer site launch phase, we’re going to do the same thing we did with the extension site: use Siteimprove to review the site and get those accessibility numbers down to the best result possible.

What would you tell other higher education entities considering using Siteimprove for their own website redesign?

As far as web administration and development in the higher education landscape goes, there is a wide array of experience and knowledge levels. Some people may not know a lot but are energetic and believe in what they’re doing. When your team may have the passion and energy, but not the technical expertise, Siteimprove is very helpful. It’s comprehensive and simple enough for inexperienced users to work with. I don’t know what the competition is—but I haven’t bothered to know what the competition is. It’s that good. It helps you avoid spending time trying to do what you can’t do on your own. As far as developing intelligence on quality assurance and accessibility, Siteimprove is really going to help you.