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Complaints and concerns addressed by team behind new Southeast website
The new official Southeast website launched Wednesday, Oct. 6, at 10 p.m., just before fall break — a decision meant to allow more time for faculty and staff to get acquainted with the website. When students discovered the change, a majority disliked the website because of the confusing new set-up and search function issues, according to a poll held on the Southeast Arrow’s Instagram, in which 62% of respondents stated they disliked the new website.
For students who knew where to find information on the old website, navigating the entirely new set-up has been a challenge.
“I have to physically go on the page and click through a million things to get to where I want to go,” poll respondent Jania Bemis wrote. “It’s beyond frustrating trying to find stuff that was easily accessible before.”
The team behind the change explained navigation issues, broken links, the design process and cost behind the new website in detail.
Broken links and search function issues
Director of university marketing Tonya Wells said Southeast’s search function, both on the new and old website, are powered by Google. When the team updates or changes the website, she said Google needs time to crawl through and recognize the web pages before it can index the new information and produce search engine results. Wells said the search function and broken link issues should be resolved fairly soon.
“With a new website, we’ve changed absolutely every single page. So, normally what they do in a couple of days is taking a longer period of time because it’s much, much bigger,” Wells said.
Students are receiving broken links when they search for information on the new website because Google is trying to recall information from the old website that does not exist anymore, she said.
After Google completes its indexing, Wells said the search function should perform like the old website, and there won’t be any broken links.
Reason for the change
Technological issues and increased need for a responsive website design were among the central reasons for creating a new Southeast website. A technical audit of the old website revealed issues with the page load speed, search engine optimization and words-to-code ratio.
“We needed it to be a competitive, modern website,” Wells said. “We needed to improve the technical health of it, and we needed to improve the user experience for it.”
During the creation of the new website, technical issues were addressed, and the pages were designed to adapt to the type of screen users choose, from cell phones to desktop computers and tablets. If website users notice more white space on the desktop version of the website compared to the mobile version, this is simply a feature of responsive design.
Associate vice president of student life Bruce Skinner said another reason for the new website was to give each department the opportunity to update their content and ensure relevancy with the help of professionals.
“It’s a new website, but it’s also much better content,” Skinner said. “Content that is current and accurate is probably more important than a new website.”
Explanation of new design
When accessing the website, users may notice a tab for customizing the page that includes options for every type of student — early college, undergrad, graduate and online. This feature is meant to make it easier for different audiences to access the information they need in a visually-pleasing format.
“[We wanted to create] a more personal experience, because that’s what we all expect websites to do now. Your Netflix knows what you want to watch. Your Amazon knows what you’ve been looking at,” Wells said. “All audiences are looking for different things and different paths.”
Another feature of the new design is an abundance of student testimonials, statistics and photos meant to promote Southeast while avoiding lengthy blocks of text.
Cost of website and process
The process of creating the new website began with audits of the old site in 2018, and after issues were discovered, the university released a request for proposal, which was answered by nine tech design companies. Of the two companies invited to campus, Southeast chose Fastspot, a creative agency out of Baltimore specializing in creating websites for higher education.
The contract with Fastspot cost $285,300 and included the website's redesign, development and migration. Skinner said the new website is the first Southeast website to utilize outside professionals instead of relying solely on in-house talent.
Future of new Southeast website
Director of university communications Kathy Harper said the website is meant to provide a cohesive user experience — something she said is important to any university. Once Google finishes indexing, search engine issues should subside as website users learn to navigate the modern site. Despite their frustration, students and website users are beginning to see the benefits of the new design.
English education major Emily Bloodworth said, “I do think in the long run, the new website will be good for the university because it looks more modern. But I think it’s just gonna take some time for everyone to get adjusted to the new system.”
View the new website, and if you experience issues with it, click the pop-up banner with the safety alert signal, and someone will assist you.