To: Dr. Kristen Sullivan
From: Kim Lilienthal, Danielle Cooper, Kilby Fish, Paige Ransbury, Brittany Wheatley
Subject: Recommendation report for Public Health Studies website
Date: April 2, 2013
Overview of Report
In the fall of 2011, Public Health Studies became one of 58 minors and 78 majors available for students at Elon University. Students, prospective and current, use the web as an important source for research, including deciding a desirable major or minor and future career. That being said, the purpose of this recommendation report is to suggest changes in the Public Health Studies webpage that can create a more continuous and navigable layout with updated content that is important for and directed to potential students. To satisfy this purpose, our suggestions will focus on how to better organize the information currently onsite and add content that is relevant and helpful for students.
The Public Health Studies was first offered as a minor in 2008 at Elon University; in the fall of 2012 it will make its debut as a major. The Public Health Studies webpage, like other studies and departments on the Elon University website, is used by current students, potential students and parents of students as a starting point in researching that area of study. Although the webpage also has potential uses for Elon faculty, especially when it comes to student advisement, and other colleges and universities, such as cross examination of courses, the focus of these suggestions are for graduating seniors and college undergraduates. The Public Health Studies major and minor, being relatively new, have a small presence on Elon’s campus, especially in comparison to the bigger departments, like Biology and English, and a smaller budget. This is why updates to the Public Health website are important; online, the bigger departments and the up-and-coming programs have a free, even playing field that can be used to PHS’s advantage.
We make these suggested changes after compiling and analyzing research about content and layout/design from other program webpages of Elon University. By researching the program webpages of Elon University, we observed how other majors and minors organize their information to be more directed to current and potential students. To help illustrate some of the suggested changes, screenshots of what the outcome would look for Public Health Studies exist throughout the report.
This recommendation report seeks to provide suggestions for revision in the following categories and subcategories:
- Reorganization of Menu Bar
- Continuity within Webpages
- Updating Current Content
- Adding Content & Tabs
- Linking to Other Elon Webpages
The following information breaks down our suggestions to reorganize the current website in a way that is easy to navigate and targeted to students.
The layout recommendations provided include the reorganization of the left menu bar to include sub-menus that group tabs based on a shared relationship, as well as tweaking the layout within individual pages to support continuity when possible.
Reorganization of Menu Bar
Within this section of the report, we will address the hierarchy in which the labels appear and suggest grouping of tabs under specific headings. The current menu bar for Public Health Services, illustrated on the left of the screenshot below, is listed as follows: Major Requirements, Minor Requirements, Course Descriptions, Public Health Links, Advisory Committee, and Public Health Studies Home.
One of design choices shared by multiple programs of studies at Elon University is the utilization go sub-menus to organize related information under a heading. This is illustrated in the middle image above, a screenshot from the Environmental Studies webpage. By grouping material under the heading “Program Information”, the website directs students interested in major requirements or course descriptions to one folder of information, rather than making the students search for that heading among other headings found under “Accomplishments”.
A broader term can be used to describe the sub-menus, currently stand alone menus, and allows for easier navigation and better visual organization of the menu. In the graphic below the grouping of tabs under a broader term as well as a reorganized hierarchy is exhibited. Some of the suggested tabs will be discussed in more detail in the content section of the recommendation report, but for now the idea is to divide the information on the Public Health Link’s page. The Advisory Committee (or Faculty, as it appears in the above illustration), and the Public Health Studies Home can retain their place as headings as neither falls into a better category, but their position in the hierarchy of tabs should be changed.
The headings hierarchy is just as important in navigation as grouping related information. The heading at the top of a menu should be the one most viewed, or desired to be viewed, by the audience. In the suggested hierarchy illustrated above, Program Information and Resources falls underneath the Public Health Studies Home, but before Faulty. This organization is not to say that the Faculty tab is less important than the over tabs, but to address that the potential and current students are more likely to visit Public Health Studies Home for updates in the major or minor, Program Information for tracking changes in the requirements or updates if available classes, and Resources for help in further understanding what a Public Health Studies major or minor can do after graduation than look up the faculty.
Continuity within Webpages
Continuity within webpages, especially visual consistency between graphics, is important because of the way the human mind group’s information. After reviewing the webpages, we noticed an inconsistency with the size and placement of the tables inside of the Major and Minor pages. By reformatting the current table in Major webpage to reflect the layout on the Minor page, the audience need only learn to read one layout and will be able to interpret the information faster and more clearly.
The content recommendations listed below focus on updating material presently on the website as well as adding information that would be helpful in directing current and potential students to the right resources in or outside of the Elon University website
Updating Current Content
The picture on the main page of the website, while it is a good representation of a student actively engaged in the PHS field, depicts an alumna rather than a current student. Because the website is conducive to frequent change, selecting photos that show current students in action make visiting the website more personal for current students. Prospective students will also have a better idea about recent happenings in the discipline; therefore they will be more inspired to enroll in the major. Providing captions for the photos would also be useful in explaining the content and advertising the major. For example, the Honors Program has descriptions that highlight elements of the program that appeal to prospective students, pictured below.
The quotation on the homepage is also from an alumnus. Seeing the perspectives of graduated students is important because it exemplifies the fact that the major is a useful course of study to obtain a particular career path; however, for the purposes of the homepage that is often visited by current and prospective students, a quotation from a current student would be a better advertisement. Reading firsthand accounts of students doing recent and exciting things in the major like studying abroad and holding internships will be the best incentive for other students to declare the major as well.
Finally, the introduction at the top of the course description page is not recent. It states, “Three of these new public health classes (PHS 202, 381, & 461) won’t be offered in the 2011/2012 academic year.” This statement should be revised for accuracy for the 2012/2013 academic year so students have the information at hand when registering for spring courses.
Adding Content & Tabs
In the Layout section of this recommendation report, under Reorganization of the Menu Bar, we briefly touched on the addition of tabs to the menu as a way of separating information for clarity purposes. Here we will give more information about the added tabs as well as the addition of content on several pages.
The two tabs that were added to the menu were “Double Majors” and “Life after Elon”. As Public Health Studies has grown, its cross over with other majors, such as Biology and Exercise Science, is being seen. The “Double Majors” page would address where the cross-over between classes could be and why students should consider double majoring. Content for the page can be used from the cross-department sell sheets devised. When students look for majors and minors they select through what interest them, what career they would like in the future, and what overlaps with other majors and minors. By adding this tab, students do not have to search for the layover through other sources, you are providing it for them.
“Life after Elon” has a dual purpose in its creation. To begin with, it is an opportunity to describe what jobs and graduate schools are available for those interested or majoring in Public Health Studies. Students, and their parents, want to know the realities of life after graduating from Elon University. The second purpose is to divide the list of links provided under the current “Resources” page.
The “Resources” webpage is very useful in that more information about public health, as a field, can be gained by clicking and searching through the sites. We propose an additional sentence for each website that describes what is on the website or why students should visit that particular site. By adding this content, students are more likely to visit the site because they will have already been told what they will find on that particular site.
Linking to Other Elon Webpages
Additionally, after review of the webpages we find that it would be beneficial to position links to other Elon webpages throughout the Public Health Studies webpages. Links to other webpages with a direct correlation would be beneficial for viewers as it would allow more convenient, uninterrupted browsing. Specifically, under the Public Health Studies Major webpage a link should be made to the Major Check Sheet page under academics (http://www.elon.edu/e-web/academics/support/checksheets.xhtml). The same should be done for the Minor Check Sheet page under academics for the Public Health Studies Minor webpage (http://www.elon.edu/e-web/academics/support/minors.xhtml). By having the links to the check sheet webpages on the actual Public Health Studies Major and Minor webpages, prospective and current students are able to browse the requirements within their year and compare major requirements to find a schedule that suits their interest. On the Public Health Studies Double Major webpage links should be made to both the webpages for Biology (http://www.elon.edu/e-web/academics/elon_college/biology/) and Exercise Science majors (http://www.elon.edu/e-web/academics/exercise_science/). Since students, on the webpage, are considering to study two disciplines or are currently completing both, it is important for them to be able to freely navigate between the two discipline webpages. By having the webpages linked, it establishes a clear and natural connection between the two courses of study.
The following resources were used in the making of this web recommendation: the Elon webpage for Humans Service Studies (http://www.elon.edu/e-web/academics/elon_college/ human_services/), the Elon webpage for Environmental Studies (http://www.elon.edu/e-web/academics/elon_college/environmental_studies/) and the Elon webpage for Public Health Studies (http://www.elon.edu/e-web/academics/elon_college/public_health/default.xhtml).
The webpage for Public Health Studies is the website recommendations were being made for. The Environmental Studies and Human Service Studies webpages were used to compare what other layout choices were being used by Elon University. Choices that we thought encouraged clearer navigation and organization of information were selected for inclusion to the current Public Health Studies. Additionally, we chose to look at Elon University webpages because part of make suggestions for clearer navigation and organization for students is to have continuity over the Elon University site.