After gathering feedback from USF students and faculty last December, Jason Pontius and his Oakland-based company White Whale have been redesigning USF’s website. White Whale has been working on the design and visual elements while also collaborating with USF’s Information Technology Services (ITS), which is overseeing the applications that will be used to manage the site’s content.
From the initial feedback gathered at the forums held in January, Pontius said, “In general, students didn’t tend to think about the page very often; it didn’t seem to be something that students felt had anything to do with them. That’s something we’re hoping to change.” He said that common complaints included the small text on the page, the lack of media content, the scrolling news area, and the use of a repetitive set of photos.
Justin Vita, a senior politics major, said he mainly uses the web site to check his email and sometimes to find contact information for student clubs and organizations. He said, “Honestly, the web site is not user friendly. But once you learn it, it’s okay.”
A main facet of White Whale’s redesign involves organizing the content on the USF web site to fit the different audiences it serves. While the web site is an informational hub for current students, it also provides information and services to prospective students and parents. For example, Pontius suggested dividing the content into three different categories: About USF, Destinations and Gateways. About USF will provide basic information about the school for non-students, Destinations will house the different academic departments and colleges and Gateways will have content that is geared to specific audiences like faculty and staff or parents.
Pontius would like the redesign to make the site more useful for students. To accomplish this, White Whale placed a USFConnect login on the home page and made the academic departments more accessible with fewer clicks. In addition to making the site easier to use, the redesign could also improve the way students find out about events on campus. Pontius recommended that USF start “using Web 2.0-style tagging and sharing features on news items will make it easier for students to find out what’s going on around campus.”
Part of the new website will be revealed in mid-October as White Whale works with ITS to implement the changes for all of the content. It will take several months for the entire homepage to be switched over to the new site. Pontius said, “I’m confident that the new USF site is going to be both engaging and sustainable over the long term— and that students in particular are going to really like it.”