Information and history on campus webpage

Where the new webpage is and where campus staff hopes it will go

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Most of you have seen the new uwplatt.edu webpage. Many of you have probably experienced problems with it. 

Currently, if you click on “MyUWPlatt,” you’re simply taken to what were the old web pages, now at campus.uwplatt.edu.  

For web-page users who aren’t part of the campus community, it has become difficult to know how to navigate through the pages to find classes, programs and professors. Search engines are of little help.  

In short, the campus’ transition to a new web-page format has not gone smoothly, and this transition may continue for some time.  Whether you have had issues, are confused or have no issues with it, here is what we know.

Earlier this year, the pages on the old uwplatt.edu website were moved to campus.uwplatt.edu.  

Search engines, such as Google, still direct searchers to uwplatt.edu rather than campus.uwplatt.edu addresses.  This misdirection has caused much of what was on the old website to become very hard to find unless someone already knows how to navigate it.  One needs to know the name of the webpage in advance, rather than typing part of it in and then having it pop up. Even if something appears, there might be more detailed information on the campus.uwplatt.edu site.

This discrepancy has caused havoc for people both on the inside and the outside who are trying to find information. 

“If you don’t know the resource name, it’s almost impossible to find,” said junior Health and Human Performance major Maddie Flanders. “I have a lot of issues finding things on the new site. The search bar doesn’t work well and it’s harder to find resources now that you have to use the A to Z list.” 

Many “outsiders,” such as potential students, employees and new freshmen, are unaware that there are two websites, which makes it difficult to search for class offerings and campus resources.

For instance, chemistry professor and department chair June Li provided the example of offering a job to an assistant professor candidate, and the job candidate being unable to find information about the department who wanted to hire him. To find the appropriate information, they had to know to go to the college of EMS, but it is not immediately obvious to potential students and staff that chemistry is part of the College of EMS.

Some students have dealt with the problems of the website in transition by simply avoiding it.

“I use the apps for Canvas, PASS and email because they’re easier to access and I don’t have to use the website,” said senior Industrial Technology Management major Jordan Sorge.

Why the change?

According to a document entitled “Website Project: Frequently Asked Questions” distributed at the final of five open meetings about the issue, the new website was created in part because the old one focused too much on internal access rather than supporting recruitment efforts.  The old website was used 80% of the time by internal users, or those who are already part of the campus community, rather than the general public.

However, the university uses the website as a marketing and recruiting tool.  Because of this, the new website design focused upon the external community.

 “The institutions’ website is an extremely important tool that enhances the communication and recruiting efforts of the university,” said Vice Chancellor for University Relations/Chief of Staff Rose Smyrski. “The site serves as a first point of contact with prospective students and/or their parents —all looking for specific details to help make the best-informed decision for their future or their young adult’s future.”

To help with recruiting, UW-Plattville has created a new logo that went up in January of 2019. In order to be consistent throughout the university, this meant that the university needed to update their website, which included a search engine as the key component.

At the same time, the university merged with what were two separate schools: UW-Richland and Baraboo-Sauk County.

Due to all these reasons, the website required a redesign.

The oldest website in UW-System

UW-Platteville was the first UW-System school to have a website.

As Communications Director Paul Erickson explains, “When I first began in athletics in December of 1996, the website was in its infancy. We put the schedule and a roster up in the preseason and scores and a short paragraph up after a game. That was the extent of web communication. 

“We thought of it as more of a nice service than a way of life back then,” he continued.  “No one, or at least hardly anyone, could anticipate how vital websites would be to communications. Now, we are accustomed to live video, photos, stories, information etc. instantaneously. It’s truly remarkable to have witnessed this change over the past two decades.”

Since 1996, the website has gone through several renovations, the last one being six years ago, according to Smyrski.  “The university needed to optimize the responsiveness for mobile devices versus desktops. Prospective students use their mobile devices while the old design worked really well for desktops. The thought was to create a design that incorporates a minimal, sleek design with content that is impactful and highlights all the reasons UW-Platteville should be the first choice when looking at a college.”

The university monitors data, such as where users go on the site, how many pages they visit, how long they are on the site, whether they leave from the first page visited and whether they take any action based on the pages they visit.  They then increase the number of prospective students by urging more users to ask for further information by calling or emailing the university, retargeting website visitors and displaying advertisements to specific geographic locations. 

Growing pains

The transition to a new design has clearly posed challenges.  

At the September 10 Faculty Senate meeting, Senator Andy Pawl requested that the webpage redesign be added to the agenda as an emergency item. 

According to Faculty Senate minutes, “Extensive discussion ensued about the Web Open Forum and the issues the new website is causing.”  

The Senate recommended “to the Chancellor and senior team that the campus.uwplatt.edu site be relisted on google until the uwplatt.edu site is complete,”  unanimously.  

At the Sept. 24 Faculty Senate meeting, Chancellor Dennis Shields stated that the transition had gone forward too far to turn back.  

Vice Chancellors Paige Smith and Administrative Services Rose Smyrski have since created a Web Advisory team whose goal, according to Smyrski, is to “review the progress of the project, seek input from the campus community on how the project is proceeding and report out to their respective areas.”  

The student representative on that committee is President’s Council Chair  and Student Body Vice President Kurstin Frey. Two more students will be added to the committee, said Smyrski.

Where we are now

The IT department is working to transfer many of the old webpages onto one site. While the old site had over 40,000 webpages, the new one may have less than 10,000.

The university has over 400 “content stewards” responsible for updating particular websites.  Currently, those stewards still update campus.uwplatt.edu. According to Karen Adams, Director of Marketing, IT staff are in the process of meeting with stewards.  In a communication from September 27, she noted that “substantial progress has been made” in migrating pages from the old site to the new site.

Both Adams and Smyrski urged those who had particular concerns or who had corrections to specific website items to do so by using the “Website Feedback” button.  

On the uwplatt.edu website, that button appears near the bottom of the page under “Information.” On the campus.uwplatt.edu website, it is listed under “Resources” and appears right under the gray bar that includes links to Canvas and Email.

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