UT to redesign website to keep up with the times

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UT is in the process of redesigning its website to keep pace with a changing technological environment.

The University Communications department conducted a Mobile Strategy Taskforce study last year and found the current UT website fails to meet the needs of prospective students, current students and staff.

Mike Horn, director of digital strategy for University Communications, said the site is lagging behind modern standards.

“As with most websites, the time has come for refreshment that meets the demands of current consumers,” Horn said.

Horn said the Senate of College Councils is collaborating with them throughout the process. Legislation proposed by the senate calls for the inclusion of a website redesign consultative student committee and an online student handbook. It will be discussed in the general assembly Oct. 10 at the Legislative Assembly Room in the Student Activity Center.

Siddharth Sridhar, a math, Plan II and economics senior and a member of Senate, said he helped write the most recent policy regarding the committee and handbook. Sridhar said the current website leaves a negative impression on high school students that are looking into UT for the first time.

“The current format is really old, it looks like it’s out of the ‘90s,” Sridhar said. “If a prospective computer science major looks at the home page, they will wonder, ‘Do I really want to go to UT?’”

Computer science junior Andrew Shewaga said he finds the site difficult to navigate.

“I would imagine that someone with less experience wouldn’t be able to find what they’re looking for,” Shewaga said.

Sridhar said the new website needs to produce a better student portal and home page.

“We put these two together because it all concerns access to information,” Sridhar said.

Horn said the current website fails to meet the needs of various audiences and the various platforms they use to access it — particularly a youth population that increasingly accesses the site using smartphones.

“When the current site was built, mobile access was not a significant issue,” Horn said. “Designing for mobile is still relatively new and there are few [people] on campus that have expertise in this space.”

Horn said UT will need external expertise to accomplish this feat.

“In order to complete a project of this magnitude quickly and produce the best user experience, we deemed it best to seek an outside vendor,” Horn said. “We are still taking bids and evaluating proposals [but] we hope to be able to launch the responsive site before the start of the 2014-15 academic year.”