New School Year Brings New Website at UMass Boston

Colleen Locke | September 02, 2011
New School Year Brings New Website at UMass Boston

Students, faculty, and staff have asked for a more modern website — one that is easier to navigate, accessible, and better captures the UMass Boston experience.

And after two years of planning, construction, and testing, UMass Boston is kicking off the 2011-2012 school year with a new site aimed at doing just that. The university launched a redesigned www.umb.edu on August 25.

“Our new site truly reflects our vision, mission, values, and voice,” Chancellor J. Keith Motley said. “It’s easy to navigate, aesthetically appealing, modern, consistent, accessible, and above all, designed to catch the eyes of our most important audience: current and prospective students.”

With its new look, features and functionality, the redesigned site makes it easier for current and prospective students to find valuable information about classes, campus services, and activities.

Taking into account usability studies and best practices in higher education, the new site places offices, departments, and resources together with like categories. Student resources can be found on the “Life on Campus” section, with resources for faculty on the “Faculty & Staff” page, and community links residing on the “In the Community” page.

There are quick links to email, WISER, Blackboard, the library, and the alumni portal at the top of the homepage. Visitors also use the homepage search function or the “Offices & Directory” link to locate offices, departments, and centers.

Improving the site’s accessibility, there is now a link to a text-only version of the homepage on the bottom of the page to better serve users accessing the site on their screen readers. Editors have also added “alt text” to images throughout the site so screen readers can describe the contents of photos.

In addition, the university has adopted a platform that will require all videos hosted on www.umb.edu to be captioned.

The most noticeable change on the homepage is a series of rotating stories and videos answering the question, “Why UMass Boston?” The stories highlight UMass Boston’s initiatives and achievements and showcase what faculty, staff, students, and alumni are doing at the university, in the community, and around the world.

The new site also aims at being more interactive. A “University Voices” section features rotating blogs on the right side of the homepage, and users to email photos to news@umb.edu to be featured under the “Send Us Your Pics” feature. Users can also comment on all news stories.

Throughout the site, “Connect” sections appear on the right side of pages. This is a place where academic units and centers can showcase their own social media sites, newsletters, and other ways of connecting with web users.
The website redevelopment process began in the fall of 2009 with a strategy development phase, which included a series of stakeholder and follow-up meetings across campus to develop the underlying plan for the new site.
Across every division in this university, hundreds of staff, faculty, and students helped plan and implement the website redesign and launch.

Robert Geary, the Gerontology Institute publications coordinator and managing editor of the Journal of Aging & Social Policy, said that when he first became involved in the project, he was resistant to the changes.

“Then, as the project got off the ground and the design became clearer, I saw that it offered many possibilities our old site just didn’t have…” he said. “We were not just copying, pasting, and linking from the old site to the new; we were rethinking how to present material with a more flexible technology than we’d been using. This really shows in the final product.”

UMass Boston has also updated its mobile site.

To offer feedback on the new website, fill out a feedback form, email webeditor@umb.edu, or, through the end of September, call the Website Hotline at 617.287.6891 or 617.287.6892. The Hotline will be staffed during normal business hours

Tags: students , the point , website redesign

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