Web Planning Committee launches new and improved Ole Miss website

Posted on Apr 18 2013 - 9:49am by Charlotte Mona Roi

The UM Web Planning Committee recently redesigned the UM website for the first time since 2009.

Photo Illustration/The DM

Photo Illustration/The DM

Visitors to The University of Mississippi’s website within the last week may have noticed a redesign of the site.

According to Kathy Gates, chief information officer at the university, every three to four years an ad hoc web planning committee meets to discuss issues with the current Ole Miss website and how to correct these problems.

According to Gates, the committee is comprised of staff members, faculty and students who are invited to join based on knowledgeability and invested interest in making pertinent information accessible to those who need it.

During October of last year, the committee conducted a survey regarding the current website to decide what the new design should include and improve upon.

The survey was open to current and former students, parents, faculty and staff. The committee members also took note of any problems they came across while accessing information on the site.

Gates stressed the importance of the layout, design and overall usability of a website for its patrons.

“We feel that it is important that everyone connects, and I don’t mean in a technical word,” Gates said.

“I mean emotionally connects to the campus website, and so it’s important that we represent all those different viewpoints.”

Some of the new changes are the colors, which are now the patented Ole Miss red and blue with a gray background.

The overall look and organization are reminiscent of the Ole Miss iPhone and iPad application, which was launched last spring.

The committee wanted to make it easier for users to switch between the different platforms. This was done with the assistance of Mercury Intermedia, the designers of the applications.

“This group (Mercury Intermedia) developed the Official Ole Miss App and we wanted the design themes to be consistent across the campus website and mobile apps,” Gates said.

This is the first redesign that borrowed organization techniques from successful companies, merging university information with an easy access format. Inspiration also came from other university websites that have been showcased by web design gallery eduStyle, which honors the best campus websites in various categories, according to Gates.

Other improvements include six content feeds such as the Ole Miss Twitter account, UM Today, events and sports.

Some aspects of this new website have yet to be coded. According to Gates, constant users of the site have considered the large, brilliant photos that rotate at the top of the page a distraction.

It is planned that an option will soon be available to either minimize or collapse the photos entirely. Additionally, links will be embedded in the photographs to lead the visitor to the corresponding news story.

Student Web Planning Committee member Austin Wilkes, broadcast journalism major and blogger, said he liked the finished product.

“I like that it’s more interactive; it’s user-friendly. I see different things categorized,” Wilkes said.

“They have a tweet section and events (section).”

“They had all of this in the older website, but in the newer one it’s just modified; it looks more modernized.”