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University to launch newly designed Web site next semester

December 4, 2008

A new design and organization of the Web site for UW-River Falls will be introduced in the spring semester of 2009.

The new UWRF Web site will be different in design, in the way it looks to its audience and how the site is organized, such as the key words that are used and the information under each area. The navigation layout of the site, which allows for travel from page to page, will also change.

Kevin Bertelsen, director of the publications office, has been working to try to make the Web site more efficient for people to move around the site and find the information they are searching for.

“How it is organized will become leaner and the navigation will be more efficient for people to make it through the site,” Bertelsen said.

The project for a new Web site started a year ago when UWRF hired an outside marketing firm called Woychick Design. According to Bertelsen, their purpose is “to help develop a whole new brand for the University.” They are also assisting in the design of heavily visited pages, such as the home page.

Woychick Design will help the UWRF campus “find a way to tell its story in a clear and compelling way,” Dan Woychick, principle and creative director of Woychick Design, said.

Based on reflections, the new Web site will bring stories about what it is like to be a student at UWRF and will showcase experience that includes narratives of student and alumni life.

“We’re trying to distinguish ourselves from other universities and tell our story about who we are,” Campus Web Coordinator Michael Woolsey said.

The new Web site is due for an update and marketing for the new site started two to three years ago. According to Bertelsen, in order for a Web site to grow and attract a new audience it needs to be reconditioned from time to time.

“There is a sense that the University needs to focus its self and its messaging to its various publics,” Bertelsen said. “It’s important to make things accessible to the public in a competitive environment.”

According to Benjamin Klinkner, a UWRF student majoring in animal science, he uses the e-mail and Desire to Learn on the UWRF Web site everyday and the eSIS and Library link occasionally.

“It doesn’t surprise me that there revamping a new Web site,” Klinkner said.

Research was conducted for six months before arranging the new layout of the Web site.  Members of Woychick Design asked participants in the study how they would organize the UWRF Web site.  In the past it had always been what the staff of the University speculated the public wanted to see on the site.

“They need to balance it out for those people not on campus,” Woychick said.

The study asked current and perspective students, faculty and alumni what they want the University’s Web site to provide. The study collected information by using an online survey and focus groups. According to Woolsey, 300 out of 40,000 alumni were included in the random sampling.

Alyssa Eder, a UWRF student majoring in social work said the current Web site is not efficient for the items that students use the most.

“I don’t like how you have to scroll down to be able to check e-mail, it should be at the top of the Web site,” she said. “Most people use the site for e-mail.”

The surveying was done at the University Center and was conducted by eight students. Many of the students involved in the study were freshmen and did not have experience getting information from the site.  A site map was produced that shows a map of what the Web site will look like and how things will be grouped together.

Woychick said the Web site is a communication tool and “allows publications to help get its message out to its audience.”

The new Web site will include 50 directories that hold web content compared to the 500 directories that currently has. Student organization pages, which consist of at least 100 folders, will be eliminated from the new site. It was decided based on the fact that these organizations come and go and the pages become outdated, old and not properly taken care of. They have also found that many organizations have been using other sources, such as Facebook and MySpace, to get out information about their organization. Having a site map that only holds 50 directories will limit the results that are relevant.

“Search ability should be more accurate for users of the site,” Woolsey said.

The new site will be rolled out in sections during the spring semester.