Louis Rosenfeld, co-author of the enormously helpful Information Architecture for the World Wide Web, may be right—emotionally, at least—that “web redesign must die.” Anyone who has ever been involved with a redesign of a major website knows that it is a painful and long process, full of compromises.
But a redesign is often more than just a new coat of paint. It can be a time to reassess or reassert the mission of an institution, prioritize projects and features, and look to the future.
At the Center for History and New Media we have recently officially launched the fourth major design of our site in our fourteen-year history, thanks to the hard work of our design team, led by Jeremy Boggs, the information architecture and conceptualization led by Connie Sehat (who is now the Director of Digital Scholarship at Emory), and the oversight of CHNM’s Director of Public Projects, Sharon Leon. At the beginning of 2001, when I arrived at CHNM, our home page looked like this:
Since then we’ve grown ten-fold, adding dozens of employees and many new projects and initiatives, while going through a couple of site redesigns. We used to joke about having “divisions,” back when each employee was their own “division”; now we truly have divisions, i.e., units focusing on education, public history and collections, and research, scholarship, and software, although staff often float between these areas. Our latest design reflects this more lucid view of our own organization, and tries to better project all of the things going on under our roof without seeming cluttered:
I’m not looking forward to the next redesign. But now that it’s done, I’m really glad we did this one.