By Erica Fugger
Over a year in the making, the new Union website premiered its redesign last week. Among those working on the ‘reboot’ were individuals from Union’s Office of College Relations, Information Technology Services, the Web Advisory Group, and the Web Communications Office.
An outside web firm, mStoner, was used for their expertise in designing websites for higher education institutions. Jill Hungsberg, the Senior Director of Communications, also attributed the selection of mStoner to their “extensive expertise. . .[with] the tool we use to create and publish web content.” She also spoke of mStoner’s involvement in getting to know the campus community through discussion groups in order to better facilitate a website which would best serve Union College.
Director of Web Communications Ken George expressed an overall satisfaction with the firm and was grateful for their help and expertise, especially of mStoner’s Editorial Creative Director Mark Sheehy. Not only was the firm used to help organize the new site’s information and design, mStoner also worked on making union.edu more user-friendly to the various groups who utilize the site.
George said that the objective of the reboot was to create a “premier site for a premier institution.” He stated that the goal of the website is to create an online community and to express a “public reputation of Union in a digital space and a face for Union in the outside world.” The new union.edu condenses the information and is hopefully easier to navigate and read.
The key targets for this redesign are prospective students and the “internal community.” George cited information compiled by Noel-Levitz, a higher education consulting firm, which found that twenty-three percent of prospective students reported that if “they did not find the information they needed on a school’s Web site, they were likely to drop that school from their list.” The new user-friendly options look to decrease this possibility for Union.
George further described the reboot as “streamlined,” and visually and aesthetically more pleasing than the old site. There are “audience-based gateways” that serve to create more efficient means of serving the internal needs of the school through specific paths for alumni, students, faculty, and staff. These are better-organized, direct shortcuts to find the information the user seeks.
The incorporation of social media, like Facebook, is also new to Union’s public website. George said that the Facebook traffic has been especially “more prominent” and that most schools are now trying to figure out how to use social media to build their community by focusing on the “power of these self-organized” outlets for communication and interaction.
In a recent email to the campus community, Vice President for College Relations Stephen Dare spoke of the continuing process of the reboot and targets “Phase 2” to be finished by the conclusion of the term. George stated that ongoing work is still being done to the site, such as working to re-template over one thousand pages worth of information and fixing the “broken links.” He encourages the campus community to use site’s feedback form found at http://www.union.edu/feedback/index.php.
To quote mStoner in a recent web content workshop, “If the visitor can remember only one thing about your institution, what should that one thing be?” Well, what do you think? What should that “one thing” guests to the website should know about Union College? Visit www.union.edu to see how the campus community is now being better represented, and be sure to leave a comment to show how you feel about the changes.