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University Web site to become more efficient with navigation after redesign

December 3, 2009

After undergoing surveys, research and content management studies, the University Web site is undergoing a redesign to make the site more efficient and the overall user experience better.

UW-River Falls decided to implement a new design in order to increase awareness, communication and involvement. It hopes to create a Web site that consists of marketing materials and improve administration, management, clarity, focus and professionalism, according to a presentation by DoTS Chief Information Officer Steve Reed. 

According to the Division of Technology Services (DoTS) Web redesign information page, the new page will include easy to understand content and improved navigation. 

“We are getting everyone’s input on how to design the new site,” Manager of Information System and Services Lana Hall said.  “We want to get a feel of what our users want, whether that be future students, current students, alumni or faculty and staff.”

According to a survey that took place in July, 40 percent of 531 respondents said that the current site reduced their first impression of the University. 18 percent of the respondents were first-time visitors to the University Web site. 

“I had heard about UW-River Falls through my sister who goes there, and started looking into it for my son Trey who is looking at colleges right now,” Samantha Kavythll, mother to a future student, said. “I didn’t have a hard time getting through the site, but after looking at some of the other college sites, I didn’t think that [UWRF] left much of an impression on me.”

With new changes within the site, a future student would be able to have links specifically fit to their needs in order for them to navigate the site more effectively.

“Because this is my first son going to college, and my first time going through all of this, not being sure of what to do is the hardest part for me,” Kavythll said. “It would be nice to be able to get into something just for incoming students, so I could see what information is most relevant accordingly.”

One of the major changes from the old design to the new one is a content management system versus the old Dreamweaver system that the site currently uses.

According to the Web redesign information page, a Web content management system (WCM) is a source that can make managing Web content simple.

The content management system is something the redesign task group is most excited for, according to Mike Woolsey, who is in charge of Web analytics.

“With the content management system, we will be able to go in and fix something easier and faster,” he said.  “Overall, it will make things a lot easier for us.”

The DoTS Web redesign task group had a paper trial run available to all students, faculty and staff on Nov. 23.  During this trial run, the individual was asked to locate a specific item that can be found on the University site, and then the task group graded themselves accordingly as to what needs to be improved, and how they can make the information easier to find and more efficient to the user. 

“I like the idea of a new site design.  If it really does make it more efficient for the students to find things than it will be a good thing,” student Sarah Nickerson said. “It will probably be a little frustrating to figure it out again, but the Web is always changing, so we need to roll with the punches.”

The Web redesign team plans to be finished with the site by next July. Currently everything is going according to schedule, Hall said.

“It is a whole campus effort. We would not be able to make the site as effective without all the feedback we are receiving,” she said.  “With all the help we are getting from a variety of different sources and people affected by it, we will be able to make the site more effective for everyone.”