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The new home page of Western Illinois University's Macomb campus website.
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Newly Designed Website Offers Visually Appealing, Better Way to Explore WIU

June 3, 2010


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MACOMB, IL -- A visit to Western Illinois University's Macomb campus website after
1 p.m. today (June 3) will provide visitors with a new site to peruse and explore. In fact, "Explore WIU" is one of the new "key" areas that WIU's redesigned site has to offer for prospective students, students' families, faculty and personnel.

The "Explore WIU" button (located in the upper right corner of WIU's newly designed home page) is among the many new features and information sections on the site. Frequent site visitors, however, shouldn't worry about the loss of information from or key links on the "old" site. Western's new site still offers the plethora of information about WIU (including links to the information about admissions, academics, alumni, athletics and student life, as well as to such frequently used WIU web tools as STARS, WesternOnline, e-mail, Western's A-Z index and more).

According to Executive Director of University Technology Richard Chamberlain, the new site -- which is the culmination of more than a yearlong effort that included input and feedback from the campus community -- provides better access to information not only for prospective students and their families, but also offers a visually appealing and fresh new way to learn about the University.

"One of our primary motivations going into this was to provide easy access to information for future students and their parents," Chamberlain explained. "For many prospective students and their families, their first 'visit' to WIU is through the website. It's essentially our 'window to the world.' That's why we provided access to the 'Parents and Families' section from the website's front page. This section is comprised of web pages that include important information about the Macomb campus, housing, safety, financial aid, tuition and much more."

Chamberlain noted the newly designed site features areas dedicated for international students and online learning opportunities. It also includes more University-related video and provides easier access to WIU's social networking sites (i.e., Facebook, Twitter, YouTube). He added that the work to migrate the site is, and will be for a few months, ongoing after its launch Thursday, so visitors should not be surprised if, while exploring WIU's new site, they link through to a page that still looks like the former site.

"Like any other university, WIU's web presence is big. It includes approximately 15,000 individual pages, so we will be spending the next few months working to migrate the WIU site into the new design. There are always going to be a few legacy pieces here and there, but we'll be working diligently to move the content to the new design, as well as to keep the new sections updated with current information," he said.

While migrating a website is typically a manually intensive and time-consuming task, Chamberlain noted that a significant "backend technology change" is making the migration of the site from the old design into the new one a bit easier. The University is now using the technology known as a "content management system" or "CMS." A CMS provides organizations with an online platform through which many users can input and publish information online. The new content management system provides even novice web users with an efficient and easy way to input and publish information online, as the CMS has similar functionality as word-processing software.

"The primary reason we decided to use a CMS is we were looking for a consistency of look and feel across the University website, so an individual visiting the site always knows he or she is 'at' WIU," Chamberlain explained. "For example, throughout the newly designed site, the 'Apply Now' button (which is located in the upper right corner) is easily accessible, and the Rocky [WIU's mascot] icon adjacent to the words, 'Apply Now,' identifies for the visitor that he or she is still on WIU's site, even if the individual has clicked from one section to another. In addition, the use of a CMS enables us to make changes across the entire site in a more efficient manner."

A Campus-Wide Effort
More than a year ago, members of the WIU community came together to form the Internet Technology Advisory Committee (iTAC), a group of individuals comprised of faculty, staff and students. Chamberlain noted this group was developed to reach a broad constituency group across campus, which included all the University's vice presidents' areas (i.e., Academics, Student Services, Administrative, etc.).

"The process of developing this design was based on the iTAC committee's research, as well as on feedback from the WIU Macomb campus community overall. Through the committee, we discussed items we thought were important in regard to our University website, reviewed other university websites and then synthesized what we thought were the good elements of those different websites and what our needs are. Based on that, we were able to come up with list of features and functions," he explained.

That list was provided to graphic designers and they came up with a design, which was disseminated to the campus community via an online survey.

"The design was then revised based on survey feedback. In the Fall 2009, we held open forums, which were well attended, and then we further revised the design based on the feedback from those forums. So what visitors see now is a design that has gone through several revisions and is based on significant feedback from both the iTAC group and the campus community in general," Chamberlain said.

Chamberlain also credited Western's webmasters, University Technology personnel and personnel at the Center for Application of Information Technologies (CAIT) for their hard work in transitioning WIU's site from the old design and systems to the new design and CMS. He noted that many of these individuals will also be training personnel at WIU to use the CMS and help the individual page and section "owners" learn how to update their areas of the website so they can keep information current. This, noted Chamberlain, is in line with dynamic nature of the web and will help WIU maintain a site that offers an updated look and feel.

"We want to revise based on feedback and on the metrics we get from the CMS and the other tracking tools we use to measure how people utilize the site," Chamberlain added. "We will be able to change the site more frequently and efficiently, so we can continue to provide easy access to important information about WIU and all the University has to offer."

For more information, contact Chamberlain at (309) 298-4500 or
RE-Chamberlain@wiu.edu. Visit WIU's newly designed website at wiu.edu.

Posted By: Teresa Koltzenburg (WIUNews@wiu.edu)
Office of University Relations