New Website, New Look, New Problems

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Junior communications major Allison Counterman explores the new MU website.

Kathryn Canavan, Reporter

   The university’s external website, misericordia.edu, has a new design and a more modern look, but users are noticing glitches.

   Stephen Filipiak, web content coordinator, said the reason for the change was to keep in line with the university’s marketing plan and technology enhancement initiative.

   “Our look and feel was last updated in 2007, when Misericordia officially became a university, so we were definitely in need of a new website,” Filipiak said.  “Our previous CMS served as well and was a cost effective solution for over a decade, but we believe that it was time to upgrade.”

   But Kyle Grady, a high school senior and prospective Computer Science Major, has had difficulty navigating the upgraded site.

   “The problem that I encountered was when I went to go and apply for the McCauley Award.  There is a glitch with the website.  You fill out what you’ve done throughout [high school to] your senior year.  I went to go click on ‘freshman year,’ and there was this text box that appears and it comes up as like a JavaScript and words.”

   Grady also said that some important information seems hidden. “ I don’t remember if your tuition and room and board is offered on there.  I remember I had to Google it.”

   Still, Grady said the website was “very helpful and does offer a lot of information. It’s not necessarily a hard website to maneuver around.  I wouldn’t be discouraged if it was hard to get around.  It’s not the website that is important; it’s the school.”

   Filipiak said the entire web site has changed, but much of the basic information still exists.  “What may be different is the way visitors view information in specific areas. For example, a long page of text and images may now be replaced by shorter and concise opening paragraphs while being supported by expandable accordions containing additional information,” he said.

   Filipiak said the site not only serves as a marketing tool to prospective students and families; it is as a way for campus community members to get more information. He said the site is more “mobile-friendly,” meaning it is easier to access on a phone or tablet.

   “This is a consistently growing percentage of overall web visits and now represents nearly 24% of all web traffic,” Filipiak said.

   He added that  another important enhancement was the installation of a new content management system for all users.

   “The new CMS provides added features and gives our 70+ web updaters increased ability to manage and structure their content.  Since our model of content management is decentralized, it’s critical that they have a tool that easily enables them to convey messages and maintain content.”

   Faculty members are praising the site.

   “I find the new Misericordia website cleaner and better organized.  Its more functional, but also more attractive, if such a word can be used to describe a bunch of pixels on a screen. I look at numerous college and high school websites on a regular basis, and I notice when the sites are poorly designed or difficult to navigate. This new site is not perfect, there is always a learning curve with a new interface, but it does a much better job of presenting the university, showcasing MU’s strengths, and making pertinent information readily accessible to potential students,” said assistant history professor Paul Fetzer.

   In addition, Fetzer said the site’s homepage flyout menu features tabs for visitors to access the latest news and events as well as ways to sign up for more information about programs.  The universal bottom bar is also a new section. It contains a well-planned group of links in appropriate categories without taking up too much space in the design.  The user is able to expand and contract a pop up bar as they navigate.

   “The campus calendar is a great feature for everyone looking to find information on upcoming campus events whether it be related to athletics, student activities, or upcoming lectures.  We can also feed news and calendar information on subpages throughout the site.  The course catalog functions in the same way, but was redesigned to match the look of the new site.”

   Still, Filipiak said he is working to correct issues with the new site.

   “I have heard of some issues on a case-by-case basis and we as a team have taken a proactive approach in getting them fixed.  Still, I cannot stress enough the importance of content updaters looking at and maintaining their content as regularly as possible.  The more often they do, the more likely it is that issues will be corrected sooner. We are still in active review of the site post launch and are proactively working internally and with our website provider to solve any remaining issues,” said Filipiak.

   Assistant professor of religious studies Dr. Christopher Carr found out that the new site was not compatible with older web browsers, and he said that was an easy fix.

   “I had Steve Filipiak from the Marketing Communications department investigate the problem, I think he was able to work with the engineers to make the site compatible with older browsers, but I upgraded my computer browser anyway,” said Carr.

   Another new feature for prospective students is a ‘Virtual Tour’ interactive map.  The map enables users to navigate campus areas and view them as part of meaningful  categories.  There are also customizable walking tours and maps geared towards campus events to help visitors find venues more easily, said Filipiak.

   “Since the web site is the primary source of information about Misericordia University to external audiences, it is our goal to have a site superior to other universities both in our competitor set and beyond in order to stand out in a crowded field,” said Filipiak.

   In a world where most college applications have gone digital, prospective students rely upon these websites to be efficient and well designed. But the site may not be a make-or-break factor for all prospective students.

   Grady said it doesn’t influence her decision to apply.

   “I honestly have not looked at the background information on your school on the actual website.  I felt I learned more about it in the web emails, and other flyers I have received, and also from touring your campus,” said Grady.

   He toured Misericordia on Jan. 28. The Marketing and Information Technology departments are still tweaking the site to ensure that it gives students the best virtual campus experience.

   “Future changes are being planned.  Most notable will be the complete redesign of the library website which we hope to have in place by Summer/Fall 2015,” Filipiak said.