New university homepage features video, RSS feeds

Vanderbilt University opened its new online front door Aug. 1 with a redesigned homepage designed to get viewers to their destination quickly while showcasing university events using video, audio, photography and news.

Approximately 2.5 million people visit the Vanderbilt website each month.

“The Web has changed dramatically in the two years since we last redesigned Vanderbilt’s homepage, and the expectations of our visitors have increased as well,” Michael Schoenfeld, vice chancellor public affairs, said. “Some of the most significant changes have been the explosive growth of online video and the expanded use of RSS feeds. The new homepage includes these popular items while preserving the intuitive navigation that we honed during the last process.” RSS is a technology that allows users to receive the latest news using software that collects headlines from their chosen news outlets on their computers.

The site design process used another technology that has experienced rapid growth over the past several years – blogging.
“In the past, we conducted focus group meetings to get input on the site as the design progressed,” Schoenfeld said. “Taking advantage of the interactivity and immediacy of a blog made perfect sense this time around, and provided a very public window on our process. The comments we received from faculty, students and staff were central to the development and final design of the new site.”

In recognition of the increasing number of visitors accessing the site using mobile devices, the site will recognize if a user is accessing the site using such a device and will render in a simplified way optimized for mobile use.

As with the last iteration of the homepage, this version again was designed as an accessible, standards-compliant CSS-driven site. CSS stands for cascading style sheets, which help make the site accessible to all users and also make it easier for Vanderbilt departments to incorporate the new design into their site.

The primary navigation on the homepage now includes rollovers, allowing users to quickly find some the site’s most visited areas. It also links directly to a new “Arts at Vanderbilt” page, which brings together art resources and information from across the university. Visit the new arts page at

The new homepage features the university’s colors, black and gold, moving away from the neutral color scheme used in the previous design. The second-level pages that link from the new homepage have also been redesigned to be easier to navigate. Photos and facts about Vanderbilt have been added to provide more interest on these pages.

The popular weather feature has been updated with an icon that features Kirkland Hall in all kinds of weather and links to a five-day forecast for the campus.

For those who would like to update their sites to reflect the new look, templates, color information and graphics are available on the Web Communications site at For those using the content management system Sitemason, templates are available at

The new design represents the 12th time the site has been redesigned since Vanderbilt went online in 1994. Go to to see how the homepage evolved over the past 13 years.

The redesign process began in January 2007. Creative Services designed the site and University Web Communications managed the process. To read more about the redesign, visit the blog,

Media contact: Melanie Moran, (615) 322-NEWS