New look available for university websites

New website theme

It was about two years in the making, but a fresh online look is available for ISU departments and units. The new theme can be downloaded in multiple formats.

"We wanted to focus on accessibility and usability," said Jeff Sorensen, IT's web development services manager. "It was a campuswide effort, with input from many areas."

Sorensen said the theme was built on the Bootstrap framework and is mobile-friendly. Web developers from many parts of campus, including the colleges of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Engineering and Liberal Arts and Sciences, partnered with IT to develop and provide the theme in four formats -- Drupal, WordPress, HTML and PHP.

Users will notice a contemporary flat design, with clean typography and plenty of white space. Gone are the boxes, vertical lines and left-side navigation. The header and footer were developed to incorporate standard features -- for example, sign ons and contact information -- to help with usability.

"We want to provide users with a consistent look and feel as they navigate through university websites," Sorensen said.

Consistency starts at the top

Sorensen said the top gray navigation bar is intended to be consistent across all university sites. It provides a link to the university homepage and campus-wide resources, such as sign ons, the alphabetical index and directory.

The top section (header) is designed for site-specific information, including a search box. It also contains drop-down navigation menus that can expand to many levels. The drop-drown navigation bar remains fixed at the top of the web page as users scroll down.

The bottom section (footer) allows sites to identify and link to all programs or affiliations, such as shared reporting lines. Contact information, social media links and recommended legal information -- for instance, the nondiscrimination and privacy policies -- also are part of the footer.

"This was the logical place to go big," Sorensen said. "Users should find it easy to get in touch with the department. And for consistency, please don't change the structure of the information in the footer."

Early adopters

Several sites already switched to the new look during the beta testing phase, including the university's homepage and top-level pages. Sorensen said IT web clients will be notified about the rollout of the new theme. Developers can learn more about the features on the theme website, and download their preferred format free with a Net-ID login.

"With the new theme following standard conventions, such as Bootstrap, applying the theme should be a straightforward process for most developers," Sorensen said.

Developers and users are encouraged to email suggestions and bug reports to Sorensen recommends using style sheets or sub themes instead of changing the theme so updates can be seamlessly implemented.