The University will launch a new website next July, according to Christian Knoebel, Digital Manager at the Office of Communications.
The project will be completed in collaboration with the University’s Office of Information Technology, with each department leading different initiatives, Knoebel said. He noted that the Office of Communications is also in the process of hiring an outside design firm.
OIT did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
The website will be revamped in content and format, Knoebel explained, in order to increase accessibility and improve information organization for different visitor demographics.
The University’s current website was designed in 2008 and has information dating back to 2004, he said.
“The current website uses a design that is difficult for people to find the information they want. We want a website with a contemporary design, and moreover, we want a user-centric site,” Knoebel said. “We put information in such different places that it’s really hard [to search]. You don’t build a site for its own sake, you build it so the users can get the information they want.”
The Office of Communications is also considering archiving some of the more dated information, he added.
Knoebel noted that the initiative is partly a response to technological changes. Particularly, OIT, as well as many other peer institutions, will shut down the current website system in 2019 and transition to a new technology for modernization.
To survey frequent University website users, specifically the features and functions they access, one optional pop-up question was programmed when users access the site, Knoebel explained. The question asks users to identify themselves as one of the nineteen possible audience groups, including prospective students, alumni and current undergraduate students at the University. According to Knoebel, the survey, which was launched on Oct. 1, has already had over 1,250 participants who have used the site approximately 9,939 times since Aug. 1.
“The number reflects a desire among the University to see the website improved,” Knoebel said.
To further gather input from the University community, an advisory committee, composed of students, faculty and representatives from various administrative offices will soon be formed. Knoebel noted that he and his team will reach out to stakeholders with unique needsthrough individual conversations in the coming months. Stakeholders are also encouraged to submit ideas to the initiative’s blog.
“This is an open and transparent process, and we really want people in the University community to contribute to us and have a sense of ownership of the website,” Knoebel said. “We don’t presume to know all the answers and so we will be working very closely with users of the site. What it’s not going to be is a bunch of people sitting in a closed room and asking ourselves, ‘What do we need to do?’ ”
Knoebel said that many areas of improvement for the new site are yet to be determined.
“We are filled with questions, and we have a few answers but need a lot more,” he said.
Undergraduate Student Government IT committee co-chair, Zachary Liu ’18, a computer science major, said that he is excited about the design refresh.
“It’s a great opportunity to get students and faculty more involved with OIT and more engaged with online campus resources,” he said.
Though the Office of Communications plans to launch the website before the next academic year, the new site will not include all planned features, especially the search function, Knoebel said. He said that rather, the website will be continuously renovated based on needs of different users.