UNO’s online presence gets a new look

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By Nicholas Sauma, Reporter

This week, UNO’s website took on a new look. New templates, layouts and photos are being incrementally added, but many may not know exactly how much time went into these changes.
Early last semester, Erin Owen took over as the director of the Office of Marketing, and previewed changes that include the black, UNO-branded shuttle buses and mail trucks, and now the new website.  
“We started with two public forum events in January which had huge turnout,” Owen said. “Now we’re continuing to incrementally improve as we can.  We’re also working to make sure the information is accurate, up-to-date and user friendly.”
Initial reactions to the changes have been positive.  
“It’s simple and looks a lot better than the previous one,” said Rachael Henry, who viewed it for the first time on Thursday. “I actually really like it.”  
So far, the transition has been superficial. The main page was redesigned with more photos, fewer navigation links, and limited template updating for sections.
Changes to the site have been limited.
“It’s a huge website, and part of a long process,” Owen said. “We want to make sure we have a quality of information, and also to make sure departments, faculty, and students can continue to guide this process through feedback.”
Some students preferred the old system, including Kyle Finley.  
“I don’t really care for the new, full-size slideshow event pictures. They are more distracting,” he said.  
He continued to say that he did like elimination of redundant pages, and understood the appeal of a single horizontal navigation bar, especially to new students.  
“Overall, I think it traded an efficient, effective model for a sleek, attractive look,” Finley said.  “My opinion is to keep the old layout, and just fix the redundant pages and improve accessibility.”
Beyond just student experiences lay a complex number of variables. Enrollment Management helped design the pages that target future students. Departments and colleges are wondering when their sites will be updated.  
“The website is like a country, and we have all these little states and towns, be it the alumni association, student organizations, or a college on campus,” Owen said.  
The analogy simply illustrates that it will take time for her small team to reach everybody, but she said it will happen eventually.
Another aspect of the new website fell to Bret Blackman, director of Administrative Information Services at UNO. Site governance and a content management system (CMS) are two important aspects to managing any website, but especially one as large and important as UNO’s.  
“We’re using a best practices approach,” Blackman said.  “We want to have cross-campus content management, and reduce the technical barrier so that anybody can do so.”  
By handling the more technical aspects of the project, Blackman and his team were crucial to the launch of the new website, and will continue to work hard to maintain it.
Owen and Blackman encourage students, faculty, and any other users of the website to share their comments to the email account unomarketing@unomaha.edu, which has been set up to process feedback, from bug fixes, to larger suggestions, or even just compliments. The second phase of development of the website is still to come, so feedback is still a real way to affect the look and operation of UNO’s website and online services.

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