Wilkes University launched its new website on Tues. Oct. 21. It has a new, cleaner, more organized, appearance, which is definitely an improvement. There is also an updated content management system to help make items much easier to locate.
Although the website is easier to use and has an improved look, students and instructors alike have been experiencing problems with it and have had some questions about it in general. Jack Chielli, the Associate Vice President of Marketing Communications, and Craig Thomas, the Director of Web Services and Marketing Communications were able comment on the issues that people are facing.
First and foremost, the website received a makeover because the content management system that Wilkes was using for the website ceased to update. The content management system is basically the entire backbone that makes up any website. So, when Chielli and Thomas found out that the product would not be updating, they looked for other options. Chielli said if they kept the old system it would’ve been “like buying a car when they stop making the parts. If it’s not supported, when it breaks down it just causes a whole lot more effects.” The new system is now much more capable than the previous one in terms of what can go on the website.
To create, plan, and critique the website, a committee of stakeholders on campus was created from students and faculty to IT and a marketing firm. They helped with branding, designing, shuffling the site to get it to where it needed to be. Then Chielli and Thomas “took the show on the road.” They also went to numerous groups and interviewed easily 200 people about website so they would get enough feedback in order to take the next steps. They did this because, as Thomas put it, “we are basically the facilitators of the website. The website is actually the students and everyone who operates on it.”
Before the two addressed the issues with the new website, they wanted to clear up a misconception that some students and staff have. When students and faculty members were asked if they had any problems with the website, a common concern was that that the website launch occurred at an inconvenient time what with mid-term grades needing to be submitted and registration occurring for students.
Chielli and Thomas want to make it clear that the systems in which students register for classes and faculty submit grades is a separate system from the Wilkes homepage (www.wilkes.edu). Any issues with those two sources has nothing to do with the new website.
They wanted to address some of the concerns people on campus are having. One of the main issues students have been facing with the website is broken links. An indication that signals a link malfunction with the website is when the familiar “404 File or Directory Not Found” message pops up.
To fix this, they run a software system that goes through the website and checks for all the broken links and it reports them back to them. When the site was initially launched, there were many broken links that needed fixing. However, as they keep scanning, fewer and fewer are getting returned to them, which is a good sign because more and more are being corrected.
They are also working on response time of the website by trying to get it to load quicker. They are at a good spot when it comes to loading, but it can be quicker. Everyone should know that the first time they go on the website, it will be slow because of all the new information, pictures, videos, and links. But, after the first time visiting the site, it will be saved on the computer and load faster the next time.
Chielli said that with such a major adjustment, glitches were going to happen, but the problems they have had were not unexpected and they now how to fix them. Just give it some time.
A major thing that students here may not realize is that websites for colleges are 70% intended for prospective students and only 30% for current students. In fact, the website was launched at this time for two reasons. One was because they needed people around campus to identify issues with the site, so they couldn’t do it over break. Another was because it is prime recruitment season and a school’s website eaves an impression. Some may not agree, but this was certainly true for Dian McKinney.
McKinney, Freshman English major, loves Wilkes, but last year when at this time when she looking at and applying to schools, Wilkes wasn’t even on her radar, but why? She said, “Before I visited the campus, I was researching Wilkes online. I thought that the website didn’t look legitimate, it was unorganized, and difficult to locate what I needed. I almost didn’t even come visit. Once I did, I fell in love with the campus, but the website was definitely a drawback. The new website looks more modern, professional, and appealing to the eye. I really love it.”
The new website, just like the old one, will be constantly evolving as new technologies are introduced, information arises, and website contributors become accustomed to a system that is much easier to use. This was the first huge step to a never-ending process. As Chielli and Thomas put it, “We now have the structure to go forward for a number of years.”