As a part of a new visual identity, University of Waterloo is looking forward to redesigning the UW website (www.uwaterloo.ca) to reflect its innovative, inspirational, and forward-looking outlook. A consulting team “White Whale Web Consultants” has been recruited to conduct the redesign. After intense student response to the “laser” logo proposed in 2009, the communications team is taking steps to ensure student input is collected for the new website. For this purpose a meeting was arranged between the consultants and students. The consultants seemed very open and empathetic to students and emphasized that the new website would be designed such that it reflects the authentic lives of students at UW and their relationship with the University.
A brief discussion about the current website revealed that most of the students have quick links to websites of their use such as UW-Ace, Quest, etc. and very few students visit the UW homepage. The homepage is good for alumni and prospective students, but does not offer much of interest to current students. The Daily Bulletin, which is the main form of communication from the University Administration, seems to primarily address staff and is not too relevant to students. Some students commented that it is also “boring” with only text and not enough interesting pictures.
This led to a strong inclination towards having a student homepage, separate from the UW homepage which will be more relevant to current students. Students revealed that faculties are the source of school spirit but in spite of the strong student-faculty relationship, even the faculty homepages are not too relevant to the current students. In the big picture, there should be a student homepage that connects students across all faculties. This page will have links to faculty homepages. Faculty homepages should have links to their respective Student Society homepages and entities like FEDS, Athletics etc. There was also a suggestion to make all UW webpages consistent, although there were mixed feelings because UW faculties are so different from each other that it’s almost impossible to address every faculty under the same banner.
There was a suggestion to design the new website as an interactive newspaper that offers means of internal communication by having advertisements of events taking place on campus. The website should celebrate student success and accomplishments and reiterate their experiences from their own perspective. Students should also be allowed to submit content to the website to advertise events. Maps, stories, pictures and images should be updated regularly as currently old pictures are reused most of the time.
UW houses a large number of student teams and clubs in addition to its eight major faculties. It was suggested that the new website should have customization capabilities so students can customize their homepages according to their own interests. Moreover, a subscription feature can also be added so students can subscribe to emails from groups.
There was a debate on what perspective students would like to see on the website. UW’s reputation as one of the top undergraduate schools and its co-op program is what attracts students to UW. But when it comes to deciding which school they want to attend for the next four years or more, they are interested in knowing about the other things that will be happening, such as: “What is there to get involved with at school? What are the sources of entertainment outside of school?” The new website should answer these questions. There should be more information about the community too, such as The Perimeter Institute lectures, Jazz Festival, Oktoberfest etc. These elements might also help to recruit international students.
Housing is a major component of student life and sets the direction for the Orientation Week. Housing homepages should feature videos showing interviews, activities and events happening at residence so prospective students get a better feel of what they will be experiencing in residence. Stories from personal experiences should be posted because they are more likely to appeal to incoming students. Nonetheless, the content posted will have to be moderated in one way or the other because at the end of the day it is portraying an image of the University of Waterloo.
One of the major concerns was to how to get student input. ‘Like’ and ‘Dislike’ on Facebook and Twitter do not provide enough feedback. It was suggested that open discussions should be conducted and a notice should be given well ahead of time. This will give students with ideas and suggestions the opportunity to participate and hopefully will avoid feelings of surprise and/or anger once the new website is revealed.
There was a brief discussion on the layout. The website should still have UW colours, black and gold, but with a clearer font. The new layout should have a modern look that shows our distinctiveness as a well reputed academic institution and our perspective on building the future. Moreover, many people use smart phones so the website should be made compatible with them.
I encourage you all to visit http://web.uwaterloo.ca/webform/redesign-survey-website-visitors and fill in the survey.