University site gets face-lift

The university community received a surprising email last week giving the details on a new design for the school’s official website. The message promised Crusaders a fresh, modern look as well as better support for mobile devices and other electronic gadgets. What brought about all of these changes, and does the new site really live up to the hype?

Because of the decision to improve, renovations began in the summer of 2012.  According to web services manager Matthew Irvine, there were four reasons for the change.

“The first one was that it wasn’t mobile optimized. That’s kind of the biggest emphasis for re-launching the website. On the old version, you had to really work to be able to get the content that you wanted,” he said.

Twenty-five percent of devices accessing the website are mobile applications, and the percentage is steadily increasing.

The second problem was navigation. Last year, a survey  among students showed that people had a hard time making their way around the website.

“Eighteen percent of the navigation tests resulted in the user having difficulty getting to their intended location. If you wanted information on an academic program, for instance, you would have to know what college that academic program belongs to in order be able to navigate to it. So, we wanted to reduce the difficulty in navigating between different areas of the site,” Irvine said.

Other factors involved with the decision to remodel were based on intuition and aesthetics. Irvine explained the site needed to be easy for people to find what they’re looking for. To fix this problem, sections of the site were moved to a drop-down menu.

Before the renovation, most users were greeted with a bright yellow background when visiting the official home page. With help from webmaster Lucy Hutcheson, the layout was changed to a more toned-down look, making it easier for viewers to scroll through content.

The biggest new feature of the site is its mobile-friendly aspect, and it also comes with a few extra neat tricks.

Irvine said, “The sliders we have are touch-enabled. You can flick with your finger if you’re on a touch-enabled browser. We’ve done a lot of work on the faculty and staff profiles to make them friendlier to users. Mostly, it all boils down to the fact that it works on every screen size.”

Associate Vice President for Information Technology Brent Harris said the newly designed website is now able to reconfigure to whatever size device is accessing the site. It will not load differently on a smartphone or a tablet. The content is the same, with only the layout adjusting.

There’s still some work to be done on the website before it’s complete, but so far it has been a success with the public.

“We’ve only heard good things. We’ve had a couple of minor tweaks that we’ve had to make for things that didn’t work exactly as expected, but those are easy (to fix). We’ve heard just great reviews from everyone. From students, faculty and staff alike, we have had a very positive reaction to the site,” Harris said.

Sophomore finance major Kristina Liu is among those who are keen on the new changes.

“It looks a lot better than the old one. I like the new design. The interface is a lot more convenient, too.  It’s easier for me to find the pages I’m looking for,” she said.

Harris thinks the IT department is not only taking the right steps toward making the website a more search-friendly space for prospective students to browse through, but also working in the right direction to create a better online resource as a whole.

“The website is what the world sees. It establishes how we’re perceived in many ways more than even print, or any other material that we put out. So we want to be sure we are putting our best foot forward from the very beginning. I feel good about having done that. I’m proud of it,” he said.

The university has a total of 70 sites that use the main Web design. So far, 20 have been launched. Over the next couple of weeks, the remaining 50 will be rolled out.

Author: April Littleton

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