Berkeley NewsCenter gets a makeover

The Berkeley NewsCenter has undergone a makeover — and it’s more than skin deep.

A clean new design and improved news format make it easier than ever for people to connect quickly with what’s happening on campus and with Berkeley’s impact around the world.

“The updated NewsCenter is a central piece of our strategy to move toward an online communications platform for Berkeley,” says Claire Holmes, associate vice chancellor for public affairs and communications. “Last year we transformed the print Berkeleyan into an electronic publication to leverage web content, and we also launched the Berkeley Blog. And last week we debuted a mobile app providing access to campus news and events on the iPhone and other mobile platforms.”

NewsCenter screen shot

The combined effort, Holmes says, is intended to reach faculty, staff and students in a number of simple ways that are easy for them and to build a broader audience for the extraordinary story of UC Berkeley.

The redesign is the NewsCenter’s first since it was launched nine years ago, according to Steve McConnell, who led the project as web managing editor in the Office of Public Affairs. Since then, it’s grown into a comprehensive online portal to news about Berkeley, with articles, photographs and videos, a campuswide events calendar and links to websites all over campus as well as to worldwide media coverage.

The new design makes the NewsCenter’s many layers more accessible, allowing quicker navigation to items of interest and an instant take on  the most significant news.

Replacing the old NewsCenter’s scroll, where stories posted at the top were pushed downpage whenever a new item came along, the new WordPress-based format gives prominence to the top five stories. They are given more space and bigger graphics, and can stay in place for as long as they remain the top news.

“We are making decisions about the most important stories and putting them right in front of you,” explains McConnell.

Down each side of the page are enhanced sections for topics that readers have identified as the most compelling, especially research and news about and for faculty and staff.

The Berkeley Blog and Berkeley in the News, which links to other media’s stories about the campus, now get bigger play.

New features include links to the most popular and most e-mailed NewsCenter stories, and the use of tags to help readers navigate to subjects that interest them most. Links to e-mail and share sites like Facebook and StumbleUpon are now more prominent.

While adding and rearranging features, the NewsCenter retains all of its former categories, with drop-down menus across the top linking directly to the latest news, the events calendar, media relations, multimedia and sports. Categories now get their own web pages with graphics.

The new NewsCenter was built based on feedback from several reader surveys and in collaboration with broad virtual focus group of 50 to 70 people on and off campus.

Eventually all 10,000 articles in the NewsCenter’s back catalog will be moved into the new system, but in the meantime they remain accessible by searching or browsing the archive.

The new NewsCenter took the better part of a year to create, and involved work by many on the Public Affairs staff. It went live within the past week and will continue to evolve based on feedback from readers.

“We’re always looking for new ideas to make it more friendly,” says McConnell.