“ND.edu doesn’t look Notre Dame enough,” said Lou Nanni, executive vice president of University Relations and my new boss. My group, University Communications, had recently been merged with University Relations after our vice president and associate vice president of Marketing Communications had moved on.
I agreed with him. This was back in January. Actually, I know it was Jan 11 because I tweeted about it.
We had just launched a new design that pass July. I understood him. The new nd.edu was great – clean design, dropped the flash carousel, and had a better header story but it wasn’t right for the university. I was in charge of the dept that built it and I should have said that it wasn’t right back then but now we had another shot at really making it into what it needed to be.
I told him we could do better and Nick Johnson (our new web director in his first meeting with Lou) agreed. We could have a couple of quick fixes in to make the university’s main site better like font choice, color selection, rotate the stories, and maybe add a campus shot but really I wanted to replace it all. The website needed to cause a stir in my alum heart and capture the real beauty of campus that surrounded us every day at work.
We have the best web team that I’ve ever worked with. I’m so proud of this team. BTW, the print team, video team and photographers are the best as well – the talent here at ND is extraordinary especially for how small the group is. And we have won some of the best awards to prove it.
We talked timeline with Lou. He was happy with a couple of weeks for small fixes but he didn’t want to wait a long time for a complete redesign. When we talked in terms of months, he wanted weeks. Nick and I walked back to Grace Hall on that cool January day.
“I think he’s thinking April or May,” said one of us. I can’t remember who. I told Nick, “I’m thinking April 1st.”
We knew that was highly aggressive but if we shut down the shop for two months and worked only on ND.edu I bet we could do it. Nick agreed. When we came back to Lou with the timeline, it was exactly in line with what he was thinking. He likes aggressive timeline. He believes they bring out the best in people. I like that thinking as well.
The team got right to work. We broke down the timeline – Feb to April. We cleared our plates of other work and we spoke to all our paying clients (we are internal agency that charges for our labor) that we were going to be on hold for two months. On Feb 1st, we hit the ground running.
Now I’m not going to sugarcoat anything about this build. There were heated discussions, there was passion, there were tons of ideas and brainstorming. Content is always an issue to deal with. Sometimes it wasn’t very pretty. But we came together in agreement. Then we showed the comps to Lou.
He said, “it makes my heart sing.” That’s all we needed to hear.
I want to give a big hearty thanks to the minds that made this website come alive.
Nick – his leadership was amazing. He pulled the right people together. As creative director for nd.edu, he spent long hours with the designers, content and kept his cool as I beat him up on his ideas, layouts and transitions. He deserves a ton of credit for keeping the shop running while down a web designer and web developer (we only have one designer in house right now so if you are looking for a great gig, hit Nick up).
Philip – being here for not even a year and understanding the level of design that nd.edu required as well as the long hours to put it altogether. What a blessing of a hire you are. Thanks for being Philip you are.
Erik – we would be seriously lost without Erik’s extensive knowledge of responsive design and the magical way he can just make things work. His code is clean and the hours he put in away from his family are priceless. I really appreciate the sacrifice here.
Stephanie – just jumping into the role as project manager and taking on the beast of nd.edu as well as the team. Well, that deserves some serious kudos. Thanks for keeping us on time, Sheriff Stephanie – I mean, Penny (that’s Nick’s joke).
Kate – IA work is never easy and you have some strong opinions to deal with coming from me, Nick and Jane. You kept your cool and helped us figure out how to convert that big old drop-down apron into something very user-friendly and clean.
Jane – Content has always been a challenge and so are we as a team. Your insights helped us make the right choices for the IA and the content. Thanks for keeping us centered on the user and not just delivering cool for cool’s sake.
Mike – writer extraordinary. Thanks for being available when I need you and not blinking an eye when I describe something without all the information in hand. Love how you roll with the punches and make the best copy I’ve had the privilege to read.
Finally, the rest of the web team – Ryan, Cristin and Jeremy. Without you guys, the shop would have broken apart while the other half was working on nd.edu.
Ryan – thanks for always delivering and being flexible with everything we throw at you. You never complain and are always willing to help out.
Cristin – thanks for keeping web support up and running. Keeping up on all the requests is a huge job and you do it with a smile on your face. I don’t believe I could do the same.
Jeremy – you finished out the OIT.nd.edu job (a huge website project) and keep our conductor system running well – I can’t tell you how appreciate I am of that and the 340 plus sites in it.
All in all, this web team did an amazing job. The kudos keep coming in and I’m happy to smile and accept the compliments but this team is the one that did it. Credit needs to go where the credit is due. Thanks web team! You’ve made the university proud.
BTW, were we successful? – you’ll have to tell me but some good sources like Karine at Collegewebeditor.com think so.
“While others were having some good April’s Fool fun with their homepage, the University of Notre Dame quietly launched a revolutionary homepage yesterday afternoon.
This could well be the Holy Grail of higher ed website design: a web design based on the mobile first approach that serves content on any devices using a combo of responsive web design techniques and server side detection to reduce the load for mobile.”
And thanks to all that helped out on ND.edu.