17, No. 16 May 3, 2001 Issue
A fresh coat of paint and more
Its been a long time coming. WSUs Web site, which won awards when it was new more than three years ago, has not kept up with the evolution of the Web and the way we use the Web today. Its time for a new look, and to find a way for the university Web site to better serve its various users.
The WSU homepages underwent the first stage of an overhaul May 1. The homepage and many subsidiary pages were replaced with a series of homepages and new versions of existing pages. The most important new feature? Five homepages, rather than one.
Intending to serve users better by tailoring Web pages to each of WSUs constituent groups, the Web developers in university communications replaced the existing single homepage with five distinct pages one each for students, staff, faculty, alumni, and guests to the university.
Each of those pages has content that is consistent on all five homepages, and some content selected to serve the needs of that particular group. For example, the student page has links directly to the registrar, the schedule of courses, and the Student Government Association, while the faculty page has links to human resources and the Faculty Senate.
"Weve actually taken out a lot of the graphics on the homepage," explains John Jones, online editor. "While the visitors page still needs to have some pictures to show off our campus, thats an unnecessary use of space on the homepage for people who spend their days and evenings on campus. While still trying to provide an attractive, distinctive site, were trying to focus much more on content than looks."
Using Web programming techniques called "cookies" to store preferences on a users computer, the new university Web pages will return users to the version of the homepage they had used most recently, rather than the visitors page, where all new visitors start. This will allow users to log in directly to their version of the homepage without having to bookmark the page. By clicking tabs at the top of the page it will be simple to navigate between pages.
"Were excited to be making these changes," says Tammy Allen, director of marketing. "The ideal is to make our site more shallow to cut down the number of clicks between a user and the information theyre looking for. These changes should go a long way to making information on the Web more accessible."
This is just a first step. As more of the main university pages are converted to the new design, new features will be released later this summer, making it much easier for departments and offices to create and maintain their own Web pages.
Of course, the Web is a fluid environment. Changes can be made to help these new homepages better meet user needs.
"We did some beta testing with several different groups, but we know that there will always be ways the pages can be improved," says Jones.
If you have questions, comments, or suggestions, please contact Jones at 978-3436 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
|Inside WSU is published by the Office of University Communications for Wichita State University faculty, staff and friends on biweekly Thursdays during the fall and spring semesters. Items to be considered for publication should be sent to campus box 62 or Amy.Geiszler-Jones@wichita.edu 10 days before publication.|