The University of Pennsylvania’s GRASP Robotics Lab has been at the forefront of robotic design and engineering for decades. However, their website was getting a bit outdated and was in need of an upgrade. The new site needed to match the University’s brand style guide while showcasing the student and faculty projects that make the GRASP Lab unique.
An Academic Scale
While not the largest site we’ve built, GRASP is one of the more complex. Academic sites are notorious for having a large number of informative pages connected by overly complicated sitemaps. With this project, we sought to streamline the navigation of the site without removing any of the pages. To achieve this, we went through an extensive planning phase using wireframes to lay out the site before writing a single line of code.
The next hurdle we had to overcome was the ever-changing and increasing amount of content on the site. Normally, sites we build may only feature one or two sections where content is added over time, such as a blog or product listing. For GRASP, we made use of seven different content types so that new content could be added with ease. Some of the variable content on the site includes the alumni, faculty, staff, and student profiles; news; and events.
Show and Tell
To properly convey all the research that students and faculty at the GRASP Lab are performing and the community events they’re engaging in takes a lot of onsite copy. This is definitely one of the wordiest sites we’ve worked on. However, it was decided early on that we wanted to not only have the site tell visitors what goes on at the lab, but also show them.
At the risk of sounding cliché, a picture is worth a thousand words. And luckily for us, the GRASP Lab had a large number of high-quality images we could feature on the site to give visitors a glimpse into what the students and faculty do on a day-to-day basis. It’s much easier to understand the impact of the research and community outreach being done at the lab when you can see it for yourself.
With every new site we design and build, we learn new ways to do things. Sometimes we come up with new and unique design elements, while other times we develop a better way to achieve our end goal with more streamlined code. This project was our first time working with a higher education institution, and it taught us a lot about the specific needs they have. We look forward to making use of everything we learned from working with UPenn’s GRASP Lab.