The redesign of the Harvard Chan School website is a multiyear project, which began in fall 2022.
The project is being led by a working group from the Department of Information Technology and the Office of Communications. We will update this page regularly so you can track our progress.
We have selected our vendors for the design and development phase. The vendors we have chosen are:
- Wide Eye (design and UX)
- 10up (development)
The website is due to launch in fall 2024.
About the web redesign project
The primary functions of the Harvard Chan School website are:
- Attract top students, faculty and researchers.
- Attract and engage donors and alumni.
- Showcase academic research for collaborators, grantmakers, journalists, and policymakers.
- Educate the public about important public health research and provide helpful information.
- Convey the Harvard Chan School mission, vision, and values.
The web redesign project’s mission is to:
- Create a well-organized, streamlined website that is optimized for our target audiences and serves our key objectives.
- Refresh our visual brand to reinforce what makes the School unique.
- Develop governance structures to ensure that the site continues to effectively serve its key functions over time.
Findings from the discovery phase
OHO, our vendor for the discovery phase of the project, gathered feedback from approximately 250 stakeholders through surveys, focus groups, and 1:1 user testing sessions. In addition, OHO audited our sitewide content, user experience, and site governance. They also reviewed and compared the websites of peer institutions. OHO’s work resulted in a roadmap for us to use through the next phases of the project. Some of key findings from this phase include:
1. Our site does not reflect a coherent brand.
- Our site feels like a jumble of disconnected pages. There is no overarching brand, and no clear sense of our mission, our focus, or our impact.
- Site visitors want stories about impact. Our site does not make clear how members of our community — students, donors, alumni, faculty — are making a difference.
How we’re responding: We’re rethinking our approach to covering the School’s work through stories, photos, and videos. Additionally, we’re streamlining and rewriting core pages. We’ll also be working with the design/development vendor to thread the School’s mission and vision throughout the site.
Importantly, the new site will also deploy reusable content that allows for stories, academic profiles, research centers, academic programs, etc. to be tagged and cross-pollinated. For example, a feature story about a student might include a box highlighting that student’s academic program. An academic program’s web page might display profiles of faculty instructors. An academic department’s web page might feature the latest press releases and news stories related to their faculty’s research and its impact.
2. Visitors can’t find what they need.
- Key information is in different places from page to page.
- Navigation structures differ dramatically across the site.
- The site is riddled with orphan pages that don’t connect to anything else — effectively, dead ends.
How we’re responding: We’re moving from a multisite with hundreds of subsites to a single website. All content will be nested in a single, navigable menu structure.
3. Our site reflects the School’s organizational structure, not how audiences expect to find content.
- Research and academic websites don’t connect to each other, making it hard to show institutional strengths.
- Site visitors don’t necessarily know what office or department manages a given program, so it’s hard for them to find the information they need.
How we’re responding: Our new site structure will emphasize the needs of our audiences. While many administrative offices will have space on our site, content will be organized based on what we’ve learned about our visitors’ needs through analytics and user testing. For example, applicants expect to see degree program information in one area, rather than needing to click through the websites of multiple departments.
4. Too much text, too little clarity.
- Our site is far too wordy.
- Our photos don’t do a good job of conveying student life or research impact.
- Large chunks of the site are meant only for internal School audiences, creating clutter and confusion.
How we’re responding: We’ll be gathering active photos and videos throughout the year that can populate the new site. We’ll also be working with departments, centers, and offices to streamline written content. Finally, we’ll be launching a new Intranet project to create a separate space for information meant only for the internal community.
5. We need better web governance.
- Site management is too distributed, leading to broken links, poor SEO, poor adherence to accessibility standards, and sub-standard user experience.
- We need better training for website editors, and better accountability for those editors.
- Some key content needs to be managed centrally and distributed to relevant pages, rather than duplicated across the site.
How we’re responding: We’re looking into more granular permissioning options, so that web editors have the right amount of access to manage their sites without needing to have extensive training. We’re working to provide web editors with tools to track accessibility and UX issues. Finally, we’re working on new governance to provide guidance to web editors on maintaining their web pages.
The timeline below represents an estimate of major project milestones. From section to section of the site, there may be minor shifts in the timeline to accommodate project needs.
|Design and Development
|Internal stakeholder meetings
|RFP period and vendor selection
|Continued work with stakeholders to further develop sitemap, taxonomies, and fields for specific content types. Initial content writing and image capture begins.
|Vendor onboarding and discovery
|Copywriting and image capture. Further development of taxonomies and tags. SEO planning begins.
|Wireframes, design, and validation
|Alignment of content with design. Finalizing copy and taxonomies. Finalization of SEO plan.
Multisite to single site
Our current website is a WordPress multisite. We are moving toward a single main site for all of Harvard Chan School. This means that there will no longer be the option to use the “affiliate” template.
Most existing websites hosted on our multisite will migrate into our main site. In some cases, if specific criteria are met, some sites may migrate to a new WordPress tool from Harvard Web Publishing called CampusPress. In a few cases, where there is a strong business need, sites may be approved to separate from the main Harvard Chan website (these are termed “compliant self-hosted websites).
IT and Communications are currently in the process of making recommendations for all of our 280+ existing websites.
New Harvard Chan School entities will no longer be offered the option to create an entirely new website. They will, by default, be offered the ability to add new pages to the appropriate section of the main site. In cases where they meet specific criteria, they may be able to build a new site on CampusPress or a compliant, independent (“compliant self-hosted”) site.
Changing domains (URLs)
All Harvard Chan websites will have changes to their domains (URLs). This is necessary to create a more navigable website, and to improve our search engine optimization (SEO) according to OHO’s recommendations.
Currently, most Harvard Chan School entities have top-level domains (for example: hsph.harvard.edu/ProfessorName-lab). The new website will not have top-level domains for School affiliates. An example could look more like this: hsph.harvard.edu/labs/ProfessorName.
IT and Communications will work closely with SEO specialists to mitigate the impact of changing domains. We will pay special attention to redirects to ensure that existing links continue to work when we move to a new website.
IT and Communications are currently developing naming conventions for Harvard Chan School domains to create consistency across the website.
Site content streamlining
In order to make our site easier for visitors to use, we are asking all Harvard Chan School site editors to help us in streamlining existing content. Communications team members will be meeting with site editors throughout the fall and winter and will be available to help with editing in many cases. However, it’s critical to get started on your own so we can keep to our timelines. Before you meet with us, we encourage you to:
- Identify content that is redundant or outdated and delete it from your current site.
- Identify content that should be on an Intranet (content that is for an internal audience only).
- Identify “orphan” pages or sites belonging to your department/office and work with us to merge them with your existing content (email firstname.lastname@example.org for help). An orphan page/site is a page/site that cannot be accessed through the menu/site navigation.
- Identify lengthy blocks of text on your website and start thinking about how to reduce the amount of text or break it into subsections with logical headlines.
- Identify photography or other visual needs.
Want to get started readying your content for this transition? Follow this website content cleanup guide from IT and Communications.
For help reorganizing or evaluating your website content, please reach out to Iman Ramadan, email@example.com. For information about the website project, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.