MAILED: Nov. 7, 2000
The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Web site underwent a metamorphosis last week. The renovated site, www.uwec.edu, went live Nov. 2, replacing a 3-year-old site that was beginning to show its age in terms of design and navigation.
Before the site went live, several hundred people reviewed it, including students, faculty, staff, administrators, prospective students and an external consultant. Many changes were incorporated as a result of their comments. For example, a link to the UW System HELP Office was incorporated on the Prospective Student site and a link to Web Mail was added to the Student page.
Pat Collins of Stamats Communications Inc., an Iowa-based higher education research company, said during a recent critique of the renovated site that he was impressed with the organization of the site. In particular, he noted that the site was audience-driven, making it easier for various visitors to the site to find the information of most interest to them. Collins also said that the sites simple design is attractive and professional, with good use of color, photos and messages.
Higher education marketing professionals say that the Web is as important as print publications for todays technology-savvy teens. Early image building is key as research shows that seventh and eighth graders use the Web for college searches. UW-Eau Claires site currently receives nearly a half million hits a week, according to Web coordinator Lillian Hillis. This past year the Admissions Office received nearly 9,000 inquiries via the Web email link (firstname.lastname@example.org), a 105 percent increase over last year.
Hillis said todays users want a site that offers quick, intuitive navigation from the home page, and the universitys new site does just that. The top seven categories are audience-based prospective students, enrolled students, parents and family, faculty and staff, visitors, alumni and donors and the general public. These sites are complemented by four topic categories Academics, Continuing Education, Campus News and Computing and Technical Resources.
At the top of the main page users can access an electronic calendar, various campus directories and Internet searches. There is a Find It Fast section where users can search the site, use hot links to popular sites such as Admissions, Athletics, Calendars, Catalogs, Registrar and others. Find It Fast also contains an A-Z list where users can connect with any of the sites sub-pages by locating it in the alphabetical listing. There is a Headline News link to a current news story, which will change with the news of the day.
The sites design is also new and incorporates the universitys word mark, the seal, the campus colors of blue and gold and an album of campus photos, which change each time the site is reloaded. This design is carried through to the second- and third-level pages. Second-level pages offer lists of related links such as the direct link to the UW Systems online registration on the Prospective Students page.
The renovation was a collaboration of staff members from Computing and Networking Services, News Bureau, Publications, Admissions and Media Development Center. Hillis coordinated the project. Even though the collaborative process probably added time to the renovation of the site, Hillis said the time was well spent.
Interest in providing input into this design process was high. While its a difficult method to employ, I believe the end-result, a compromise of ideas woven throughout the site, meets everyones needs better.
Janice B. Wisner
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Updated: Nov. 7, 2000