UTA’s new website requires manpower and time to become a beneficial reality

Sporting a modern layout and a personalized user experience, several of UTA’s web pages have been revamped for the first time in nearly a decade.

The year and a half long project, headed by University Advancement and the Office of Information Technology, deployed a wave of redesigns in two phases on Aug. 15 and Aug. 28.

The first deployment overhauled the layout and content for the website’s homepage, Admissions page, Academics page, Student Life page, the website’s campus map, the About Us page, Visit Us page and News page. The second deployment changed the website’s Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs page, For Students page, For Parents page, Research page, Provost page and College of Business page.

Despite overhauling nearly 700 subpages, the first two deployments only represent 6% of the entire UTA website, said Joe Carpenter, the senior associate vice president for University Advancement and chief communications officer.

UTA’s leadership heard frustrations about the website’s look and accessibility since its last design in 2010, Carpenter said.

“It wasn’t able to keep up with the growth here at the university,” he said. “The technology behind it, the layout, the design was good for the time, but the demands evolved.”

A committee made up of faculty, staff and students formed to determine the best strategy for the website’s new look and recommended that the most external-facing parts of the website should focus on the needs of prospective and current students.

Carpenter said the webpages chosen for the first two waves of the redesign were considered the most public-facing, and the owners of those websites — the divisions, offices or colleges — had the resources to make the transition.

The teams from each web page owner, OIT web developers and University Advancement organizers collaborated to determine which content to remove and prioritize, how to structure information and how to balance each department’s unique purpose and personality with a unified university brand.

“I don’t want to underestimate,” Carpenter said. “This has been a significant project for the university.”

The website was also designed to adapt to the user based on previous visits and in-site searches, something that Carpenter said is a new feature.

“Over time it will be able to recognize what it is that you keep possibly searching for or what you have an interest in and then providing you that tailored experience so that you’re getting the information that you’re seeking,” he said.

Once the new pages were completed, the university brought students in to test their experiences on the site.

Eight students were also hired to move content between the old and new sites.

Computer science graduate Supreeth Tamvada said the job was a learning experience for them beyond simple data dumping. From learning new software to collaborating with people from different departments, the team of students gained skills that they expect to apply in their future careers.

“I thought it would be a summer job,” Tamvada said. “It turned out to be a pretty amazing experience.”

Stephanie McAlpine, Student Affairs associate director for marketing and communications, said the final result of the site is much more student-centric.

“It’s much more engaging,” McAlpine said. “It has the kind of feel of ‘Students first,’ instead of it being more of an administrative-looking site.”

Carpenter said the next timeline of deployments has not yet been scheduled as the redesign team is trying to evaluate the first two waves.

“What we’re going to do is analyze this one,” he said. “See what we learned from them, what went right, what we would have done differently or in light of what we know, and then we’ll begin formulating the plan.”

McAlpine said she’s heard other colleges and divisions wonder when their pages will be redesigned.

She said the entire process was a highly collaborative effort that requires time, and the teams involved are trying to do it right.

“It’s worth the wait,” she said. “As a campus, I think we’re really going diligently to make sure we have everything done.”

@davidsilvaetc

news-editor.shorthorn@uta.edu

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