Challenges and Benefits of the New UMW Faculty and Staff Site

The IT move toward the end-of-life shut down of EagleNet presents an opportunity to produce a useful, comprehensive faculty and staff website. Digital Communications tasked an intern, Sabia Prescott, with identifying and organizing the content for the first iteration. The original source material, the content of EagleNet, was expanded on and enhanced by feedback from the Web Advisory Council and the President’s Technology Advisory Council. The resulting site can now be seen at http://www.umw.edu/in/. Users are asked to continue to provide feedback in an effort to improve user experience.

The new Faculty & Staff website went live 3/26/2014.

The new Faculty & Staff website went live 3/26/2014.

Filled with various features on student accomplishments, campus happenings, and notable awards, the UMW homepage offers few immediate resources for university faculty and staff. Though it does exist, information for employees may take a while to find. This leads users either to use the search bar, which may not always produce the desired results, or spend lots of time shuffling through various tabs and menus. These problems, along with other issues of locating correct information in a concise manor, may be alleviated by one central site.

The Faculty and Staff site will aim to collect all of the campus and academic information, resources, forms, lists, and links which are useful to university employees in one place for easy access. In addition, the site will arrange faculty and staff resources in a comprehensive way in order to create a place on the UMW website where necessary information and resources can be found quickly.

The main challenge of this project has been negotiating usability in a site that stands as a wall of links. In order to locate all of the online resources in one place without creating an entirely new website, links have to exist to take users to information in other parts of the UMW site. However, doing this without making the new site simply a long list of links required some discussion of organization and feedback about preferences.

This project started out as a large spreadsheet with an extensive, but still incomplete, list of resources in no particular order that faculty and staff might need. The first step was to group them together into what could be reasonably logical categories, following suit with tabs that already exist on the UMW homepage. This part of the process involved much discussion about categorizing links and information based on where a user might think to look for it when navigating the site.

Finally, an initial version of the site was created and sent to the Web Advisory Council for consideration. Their feedback, while helpful and productive, presented other challenges in creating consistent categories and menus.

This new site, despite its challenges related to content and usability, will hopefully provide a practical and logical place for UMW employees to access resources easily and quickly. The aims of this project are to reduce the amount of time spent searching online for links, forms, and information by having all relevant material in one location. After this site is completed, the next undertaking will be a similar site for students. In the end, we hope that the UMW website will be just as useful for its current users as it is for its prospective ones.