A new online face for Linfield University

Linfield%27s+new+homepage

Linfield’s new homepage

Emma Inge, Staff Writer

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Striking visuals, bright colors, and dynamic pages. Although it looks appealing, creating the new Linfield University website was a long process, but one that was well worth it. 

The old website, which hadn’t been updated for 20 years, was long overdue for a makeover. Over time, the website accumulated over 3,500 pages making it hard for almost anyone to navigate. With plans set for rebranding and the proposal to change from Linfield College to Linfield University, it seemed like perfect timing to present a new Linfield to the world, physically and digitally.  

In May of 2020, the Board of Trustees approved the transition from Linfield College to Linfield University. That change initiated several upgrades like new logo and seal, but the website rebrand began much earlier.  

This process started over a year and a half ago, in late 2018. With a small strategic communications board, Linfield decided to hire 160over90, a marketing agency that has an extensive history with other higher education clients.  

By May of 2019, 160over90 had interviewed alumni, faculty, and students, asking each group, ‘what does Linfield mean to you?’ 

Scott Nelson, Chief Marketing Officer and VP for the Communications team, was eager to begin the rebranding process. “It was frustrating for me, I hadn’t gone through a rebrand like this before,” Nelson said. “I wanted to get going, they spent months analyzing this stuff, and it wasn’t until late summer when they started to give us back everything they’d heard.”

Once they received the research, the team began to come up with iterations and word phrases to use for the new brand. 

In the meantime, two focus groups were assembled. One group was made up of students and the other with faculty, staff, and alumni. By late fall, the consultants came back with three platforms to choose from and the focus groups were asked to put in their opinion. 

The faculty and staff leaned towards the platform with the “look” that emanated what many would see at a larger state school. Nelson, who was sure the students would agree, was surprised when he heard different. Out of 26 students, only two agreed with the faculty. 

“It’s because students felt it looked and felt like big state U, exciting and big, ‘go claim your future,’ but it didn’t have what they came to Linfield for,” Nelson said. “Which was to explore who you are and to be involved in a bunch of things.”

This forced the communications team to rethink everything and try to understand that they might not know exactly what young people want. “Those 26 students were the driving force for why we ended up where we ended up,” Nelson said. 

By December of 2019, they were in production mode. While designing a new logo and seal, they also had a monstrous task in front of them–the website.

Jill King, Director of Website Communications, was at the forefront of this production. Jonathan Pierce, previous webmaster for Linfield retired June of 2019, but came back to help King during the process. 

The communications team began determining the user audience, refining language, and gathering photos. “The old website was very text-heavy so we wanted to simplify it, to make it more appealing to students, and to give a better feeling of what life is like here at Linfield and an opportunity to visualize themselves here,” King said. 

Building a new website presented a good opportunity to bridge the separation between the McMinnville, Portland, and online campuses. 

To highlight the distinct groups, they created a new component of the website called “Voices of Linfield.”. This part of the website spotlights students on both campuses to be featured. Additionally, spotlights from graduates can be added and can be shown under their respective majors. 

The goal for the new website was to be more visual. “I think we have such a beautiful community and beautiful campus and to be able to showcase that a little bit better with less words and more imagery, I think it’s just better for Linfield in general,” King said. 

The timeline was ambitious. After implementing the new content management system from August 1st to October 3rd, King and Pierce began to build the new website pages. 

Although the website is up and running, there is still a lot of work to do. After first going live, a lot of the links didn’t work like they should have. Many Google search results brought users to an error page. But this problem is out of their control. “We just have to wait for google to re-index all those new pages,” King said. 

With the launch, there was a flood of requests for departments to re-write their site pages. Kathy Foss, Assistant Director of Communications, joined the team in May 2020. “I am not the person in there getting my hands dirty, I help with the content, I help with Jill with workload management,” Foss said. 

Thankfully, the rush to produce this large amount of content is over, and King and Foss will continue to refine the website. “I hope she [King] takes some long vacations because she has earned it,” Nelson said. “She was really the driving force for a year to get us to this point on the website and we should be thankful that we have people like her with her ability to do it.” 

When the website launched Oct. 4, it was a much anticipated wait. “I would say the hardest part has probably been just waiting to share it,” Foss said. 

The new website is a step up from the old, containing a clear vision and the structure that lacked in the old website. “It was long overdue and needed to happen for all kinds of reasons, both aesthetic and functional ones,” Nelson said. “ I’m really proud of the way it looks.”