Dining Services

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I served as the lead content strategist for the Dining Services redesign project. WashU’s Dining Services website was an antiquated and buggy Sharepoint site. It was difficult for users to easily access information as well as for staff members to update. We decided that the site was an excellent candidate for the new WordPress theme that had been developed earlier that year. A review of the analytics revealed several pain points, including the fact that there was a significant amount of generalized nutritional information as well as important allergen information that wasn’t receiving much traffic. During the discovery meeting, several key issues were identified, particularly that it was difficult to access the menus and hours of dining facilities, find meal plan options, and learn about catering options.

Planning

Based on our findings, we iterated on the information architecture in a number of meetings. Using the drag-and-drop theme, we were able to prototype and adjust the site structure in real time, which allowed the Dining Services staff to visualize the site structure rather than being force to think about the site structure conceptually.

The Information Architecture map for the Dining Services site

Content and Design

Once the IA was fairly set, I performed a content audit and then moved the content through several stages of composition and revision with the campus partners and subject experts. While the content audit spreadsheet I used during this project was an improvement on the former way of content was pulled together, I vastly improved this format during the redesign of Event Management.

With web and WashU style in mind, I wrote or revised much of the content on the site, though some has changed since its launch in August 2014. Here is a writing sample:

Dining Services supports Washington University in St. Louis’ strong commitment to sustainable practices. Our commitment is rooted in preparing flavorful food that is healthy, produced through practices that support farmers, nourishes the Washington University community and replenishes our shared natural resources for future generations.

At the same time, I built out components of the site, designing the layout of the pages and determining how the content should be displayed. Again, the drag-and-drop functionality made quick layout changes simple. Debates about different layouts were easily resolved by displaying both options.

Screen shot of the meal plans landing page

We wrapped up by adding search engine descriptions, 301 redirects and performing QA. The Dining Services communications staff was given a full training of how to use the tool. Since they had seen it in action during meetings and had limited use of it during the redesign, they had little trouble adopting the theme. As a result, support requests have been very low.

Retrospective

One of my main critiques of this project is that we didn’t obtain end-user feedback early enough. We ultimately received positive feedback and increased traffic to the site, but it was primarily done using our best judgement based on best-practices served. I know that there are still sections of the site where the user experience could be improved. Particularly, the “Where to Eat” experience would be an excellent candidate for user testing.