Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Critiquing Lee University's new Web site

Lee University's Web site recently underwent a massive revision. While the transition to a new design and updated framework is far from complete, it's already easy to critique the change.

While much of the site has changed for the better, some of it has changed for the worse. And at the same time, there remain technologies that could be utilized more effectively by Lee's web team.

So here's my view of a student's perspective of the new Web site:

PROS:

1. Thankfully, the Flame logo now reflects the look of Lee's brand with the Flame in the center of "Lee University"

2. The site now shows two images instead of one; the larger image is still open to student photography contest winners.

3. A new search bar makes the previous A-Z index obsolete.

4. The new breadcrumb navigation is a must-have.

5. The messy consortium of colorful buttons lovingly called "Lee Today" has been replaced by one single colorful square in the lower-left corner of the page.

6. Overall, the new look feels a lot cleaner and is more modern and exciting.

CONS:

1. Simple links to the campus map, privacy statement, index and web feedback have been removed. Links to the emergency plan and Datatel have been added. In my opinion, it was a mistake to remove easy access to the map, which isn't even on the "quicklinks" list.

2. The number of "current visitors" to LeeUniversity.edu has been hidden. While not necessarily important or life-enhancing, the statistics were fun to look at.

3. It's no longer possible to search the news archive exclusively.

4. The student e-mail button on the "current students" page has been replaced by a small hard-to-find text link.

5. The university calendar is now separated across several pages, still without any visual representation of the calendar.

6. Because the site is built to be easily updated, it's much more structured and can feel almost claustrophobic at times, filled with boxes and grids.

WHAT'S MISSING:

1. A blog. The university should put together an informative and frequently-updated blog not to promote press releases but to encourage interaction and conversation among the publics of the university with the institution and administration.

2. Embracing social technologies. The university should support the use and integration of sites like Facebook and Twitter to woo prospective students as well as to communicate effectively and efficiently with current students.

3. Enhanced mail. Squirrel Mail, here's a message: 20 megabytes doesn't cut it anymore. The school e-mail system for students is archaic in style and functionality. Switching to a solution like GMail seems more suited for the academic use intended.

What do you think of Lee's new Web site? Leave a comment with your pros/cons!

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