New Website
Easier navigation, simplicity highlights of Web redesign

When pages with a more streamlined design begin appearing soon on parts of oswego.edu, it will represent the next step toward a more engaging college website.

A more simplified look and new content management system, Ingeniux, aim to help both the college’s hundreds of web editors and thousands of daily visitors better do what they want, said Tim Nekritz, the college’s director of Web communication. He is part of a team from Public Affairs/Web Communication and Campus Technology Services working on this massive project.

“It’s been six or seven years since our last redesign,” Nekritz said. “What was current and new then has become outdated now. You’ll see a cleaner, brighter, better look to the website.” The addition of dropdown menus on the home page, for example, will help many web visitors better find what they seek instantly.

Managing content

The less visible part of the project has been to find a content management system (CMS) featuring ease of use and flexibility. A team featuring web support specialist Rick Buck, web coordinator Pat MacNeill and, from CTS, Nicole Decker, Daniel Laird and Andy Goldzweig, helped select Ingeniux from some 200 potential systems. The final step involved live testing with Oswego web editors, who preferred the product’s usability.

The new CMS, Ingeniux, will not only cut down the steps to upload Web text, photos and more, but it also will allow multipurposing of the elements.

“Let’s say an academic department wants to post a calendar of events or list of announcements on several of its pages,” Nekritz said. “They’ll be able to make a component for this and, to update the information, they can edit it in one place and the changed information appears on all their pages.”

It’s a powerful system. “There are a lot of cool things we want to do with it down the road,” he said.

Right now, the team is consumed with migrating content of existing web pages, training campus content providers and working out the punch list of issues. The launch will include a new home page and key academic and other “top-layer” pages, but migration will continue for some time on thousands of sub-pages.

The college hired freelance designer Colleen Kiefer, who also works with the alumni magazine, Oswego, to develop the “skin” of the system, the new look. Working with specifications and suggestions from campus leaders, she researched many college websites, plus those outside of higher education, and produced three prototype designs this summer.

College leaders, stakeholders and others familiar with web design and usability provided feedback on prototype designs. During Orientation, incoming freshmen participated in an informal survey of the leading designs. More than 62 percent preferred the one that ultimately will be used—valuable input with the web driving recruitment of top-flight students in a competitive time, Nekritz said.

Key admissions tool

The launch is timed to get ahead of the admissions cycle, which features the first major open house of the season Oct. 11. It’s key to attract, engage and hold prospective students and their parents, who may visit several college sites. The Noel-Levitz E-Expectations 2010 survey noted that one in four students reported removing a college from consideration if they were unable to find what they wanted on its website.

“Simplicity is important,” Nekritz said. “Users want to find what they want to find, and they want to find it quickly.” With 23 percent of college seekers last year reporting they used a mobile device in the process, setting up a system that will work better on portable devices in another important facet.

The team has leaned on Noel-Levitz studies, education research, best practices and many other resources for guidance. Social networking, video, mobile—the demands on web professionals come fast and furious.

“Web trends evolve so quickly,” Nekritz said. “We want to make sure we’re current, and even thinking ahead.”

(Posted: Sep 13, 2010)