After months of preparation, the new website redesign was finally unveiled on Oct. 15. Faculty and students alike are buzzing about the new website with a range of mixed reactions. With a new goal in mind for the website, those familiar with the previous site have had to readjust.
“The main goal was to redesign the website to make it more useful for perspective students,” Web Administrator Michael Miller said.
According to Amber Balash, content manager for publications & website, research has shown that 66 percent of perspective students will dismiss a university if they have trouble with their website. With that in mind, the main page of the website is centered on three questions: What can I study? Will I fit in? Can I afford it?
Balash said she wanted to make the website as attractive to prospective students as possible as well as make it easier for them to learn about Malone. Wall to Wall studios based out of Pittsburgh, Pa., was hired to do the redesign. Other clients of Wall to Wall studios include Giant Eagle, Eastern University and Bowling Green State University.
According to Balash, she has received mixed reactions from faculty and students, but overall the response has been positive. She shares that the site was approved by the president’s cabinet before launching and multiple showings to a number of different audience have provided positive feedback. However, Balash shares that not all feedback has been good.
“I have gotten ugly feedback from students who hate it,” Balash said. “They’ve kind of lost their bearings.”
According to senior computer science major Chad Fitch, the website is “one step forward, three steps back.”
“It’s not friendly for any current student at all,” Fitch said.
Specifically, Fitch feels the site is difficult to navigate and to find specific information, as well as having too many bells and whistles.
“The last website was straightforward and now it’s trying to be too fancy,” Fitch said.
Others have also questioned if the redesign is user-friendly for current students. Miller shares that they are trying to improve the site for current students, but that is not their primary objective.
Balash directs students to the “Current Students” landing page on the site and hopes that will answer all needs. The current student landing page has information regarding student life, academics, finances, offices and services as well as student learning tools such as Online Learning and the Center for Student Success. As far as most frequented sites such as Malone Xpress, a link appears at the upper right corner of every page that directs students to their accounts.
The most common complaint about the website has been trouble using the search function. As far as that is concerned, Miller states that the search tool is only tied to content that is on the main website. He encourages students to use the contact webmaster tool if they are having trouble finding any information.
There have also been some negative reactions toward the design of the site.
“[It] is just plain ugly and hard to use,” Earl Rodd, assistant professor of computer science, said.
Rodd voiced his frustrations over the hard to read fonts, distracting graphics and difficult navigation. Despite those negatives, he highlighted some good things including the high-use links and the absence of Flash movies.
“The main page is simple and therefore likely to be relatively trouble-free for users,” Rodd said.
However, Rodd said he finds the website to be inferior to any other university website.
Rodd suggests letting departments have more control over their own sites and having open communication in the process of designing the site.
Balash shares that she is open to any and all feedback and in fact encourages it.
“Everything can be improved on,” Balash said. “We are constantly uploading content, listening to feedback and tweaking things based on that feedback.”
Balash shares that she is proud of the academic section of the website and how much more convenient and user-friendly it is to prospective students. She also said the addition of the “Why Malone?” section highlights the value of Malone.
“We really want to do our best to show what Malone is all about,” Balash said.
According to Balash, future plans for the website include implementing video and making the site more accessible for users with disabilities. Currently a video and photo tour of Malone, titled “Malone Experience” is being created by Wall to Wall studios for the website.
“With the website, it’s a beast that’s always starving,” Balash said. “There’s always work to do.
“We have put a lot of blood, sweat and tears and money into this. We want it to be a good product and a good experience.”