University website receives makeover

On Dec. 27, FIU launched a new, the website that serves as the first stop for prospective students and the central hub for the university community. It is inclusive and responsive to the needs of a public research university.

A year ago, the Office of Digital Communications in the Division of External Relations launched a survey aimed at learning more about its audience. That survey was the team’s first step toward modernizing

To learn more about the new site, FIU News sat down with two members of the team charged with the redesign – Sarah Knapp, a content strategist, and Javier Ruiz, an information architect. 

Why this change is necessary

The web moves fast. It’s been years since we last updated, and it showed. We needed to catch up with the latest technologies – and our peers. From the outset, we knew the new frontier was accessibility, a philosophy that accounts for the needs of users with disabilities. We also knew, from your survey responses and web analytics, that our previous approach to was no longer in alignment with what users needed.

In short, was long overdue for an overhaul.

And the survey says…

We’re not giving users what they need. Our survey received 12,000-plus responses. What it told us was that the majority of users were prospective students (59 percent) exploring their future options. It told us that our users wanted an institution that was perceived to have strong academic programs and thriving student life. It told us that they needed easier access to academics, financial aid and admissions information. We heard that our location in Miami is the reason many want to be here – a place that was close to home, physically and culturally.

How we built it

We wrote, we sketched, we prototyped. We tested our ideas with users to ensure we were on the right track. We made sure it was accessible and that it works on your phone. As much as possible, we made sure it worked. In the future, we’re going to continue to work on the site in response to our analytics and your feedback.

What you’ll see

Because most of our users were students – particularly prospective students – you will see a site that:

  • tells a story about FIU
  • gives our university a sense of place and mission
  • features a completely redesigned degrees page that makes it easier than ever to explore academic options
  • guides students through the application process, making it easier to become a Panther
  • offers an improved search function, which brings together quick links, faculty/staff information and more

You’re going to see a site that’s geared to students because students represented the largest subset of our audience. This will evolve in time because, though students are our primary focus,’s audience is large and even small percentages add up to lots of people.

Should you still need it, an archived version of the old will live on at, and a link to it will be available in the footer at the bottom of

A new direction

Our goal with this project is more than just a one-off site. With help from users, we learned a lot from this project. We hope to continue to apply those insights throughout FIU’s web presence, so that as many visitors as possible benefit from our user-first, accessibility-minded philosophy.