Anatomy of a Redesign: Student Financial Services Launches New Website

Lori Strauss, Communications Manager, SFS

On Friday, March 13, Student Financial Services released the new SFS website. The old website has been retired and all links to the former URL will now redirect users to the new homepage.Student Financial Services new website

To create the new site, the SFS web team worked with DCAD and Moth Design to develop an extensive project plan with several key components: researching the needs of our students through a discovery phase, building the information architecture (the “bones” of the site) using our research, and finally designing and developing a site that met all of our stated goals.

To understand our current audience and to improve upon the quality of our content structure, we surveyed our users via focus groups and one-on-one interviews with undergraduate and graduate students, alumni, parents, and staff. In our research we discovered that students and our users wanted:

  • More clarity and transparency in understanding how financial aid works
  • Easy-to-find dates and deadlines
  • Resources dedicated to parents
  • Automated forms and processes

Next, we created our information architecture and sitemap to address the issues users identified, along with others we found through our daily interactions with students. In collaboration with IS&T’s Accessibility and Usability Office to test and refine our sitemap before moving on to construct the wireframes (how the site operates without any design elements). Once the wireframes were established, we tested and improved them before finalizing and adding the design elements of the site.

In the design phase, we decided to update our tone and invite students into our site with playful imagery and animations that are representative of MIT students. To help us personalize our site in this way, we contracted with an illustrator, Fish McGill, through Moth Design. We also wrote all new copy and clarified terms that students mentioned were confusing in our discovery efforts.

Once the design was completed, we sent the results of our efforts to our developers. Unfortunately, we ran into a few snags with our first company. However, we reached out to Mike Rossetti of Penzias, a former IS&T employee who is now developing websites; Mike finished building the site according to our specifications.

The result is our new website, built in the latest version of Drupal and hosted at MIT, which has updated, simple language and clear visual cues for navigating through the complexities of financial aid and billing. Other features include online forms for students to use and better tools for self-service, including a newly created job board for part-time and seasonal opportunities. As always, we encourage students to contact us if they have questions or concerns, but hope that they will find the answers they need more easily on our new site.