The Day Job (Part 2)

Redesigning the UT Knoxville front page was the first step in an on-going overhaul of the university’s web presence. Step two went into effect today, when I officially released the design template for all colleges, departments, and units. Conceptually, this design was actually the greater challenge — much to my surprise. Our priorities went something like this:

  1. Carry through the same brand identity that was established with the front page redesign, but do so in a way that draws subtle but significant distinctions between the two web spheres.
  2. Aspire for full web standards compliance, while acknowledging — and even embracing — the fact that we’ll never be able to properly “police” the code. As I wrote in the documentation, “I’m betting that it will take less than three weeks before we find a live template page that has been completely rebuilt with nested tables.” And I’m okay with that.
  3. Strike a deliberate balance between consistency (of design, brand, and navigation) and freedom. UT has eleven colleges and more than 300 degree programs, not to mention the hundreds of academic institutes, administrative offices, outreach centers, research initiatives, and support units. Each has a unique audience and unique goals; each should look like it contributes directly to the university’s overarching mission.
  4. Make this transition as painless as possible for the community of web developers across campus who will have this template dropped in their laps. Inheriting someone else’s code always sucks. I did my best to streamline it, to predict and prepare for eventual problems, and to comment the heck out of the code. We also decided to provide developers with a toolbox of menus and design ideas. If, in the process, we also manage to foster a more collegial attitude among campus web professionals, so much the better.