Continuous Improvement Means Continuous Collaboration

by Christian Knoebel

Opening Exercises; Princeton University, Office of Communications, Denise Applewhite (2015) 

Opening Exercises; Princeton University, Office of Communications, Denise Applewhite (2015) 

Opening Exercises; Princeton University, Office of Communications, Denise Applewhite (2015)


Dan Day writes in the previous Redesign blog post that the next princeton.edu won’t wait for time to pass it by:

Since 2008, our site has had the same basic design … We won't wait another eight years to redesign. Once we put up the new version, we'll start work on improving it and do so continuously week after week, month after month, year after year.

To Dan’s point: Continuous improvement is part of our vision for the site (another: communicate through identity, storytelling and design).

But why should we try to improve something that’s new? That would be like fixing a new car. If we build it right there should be nothing more to do.

Websites are services that help us find specific answers (“Who’s the chair of Astrophysical Sciences?”), let us explore areas of interest (“What’s campus life for an undergraduate student?”) and help us learn generally about something (“What is Princeton University?”). To get this information we search and browse, click and hover, read and skim.

These tasks (our web-nerd term for them is “use cases”) don’t change much. And yet change happens every day because we, the site’s users, are always changing. (Could some kind of change be why alumni trade beer jackets for blazers after 25 years?) New technologies influence our habits, new information expands our choices, new websites and apps reset our expectations for how all websites should work.

One of the defining characteristics of the Princeton community is its dynamism. Princeton has traditions, but it’s far from a static place. Why would we want a site that doesn’t change with it?

To get there we have to be in constant contact with the university community. In the months since this project started, we’ve had dozens of meetings with campus groups and people, including (in no special order):

  • Office of the Dean for Research
  • Art Museum
  • Princeton University Concerts
  • Office of the Dean of Faculty
  • Undergraduate Research
  • Council of the Humanities
  • President of the University
  • Vice President and Secretary of the University
  • Chief Information Officer
  • Office of the Provost (including International Affairs and Diversity and Inclusion)
  • Lewis Center
  • University Archivist
  • Staff
  • Music Department
  • Graduate School
  • Office of Information Technology
  • Undergraduate Admission
  • Office of the Registrar
  • Finance and Treasury
  • Undergraduate Students
  • Office of Communications
  • School of Engineering
  • Office of the Executive Vice President
  • Office of the Dean of the College
  • Alumni Affairs
  • Alumni
  • Faculty
  • Human Resources
  • Development

We have more to go and we’re not going to stop after the site launches because continuous improvement means continuous collaboration.