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University launches new website with increased focus on students

Students from the University of Ottawa who have complained about the website may want to give it another look.

The U of O has revamped its website in an effort to improve student experience. With 51.5 million visits per year, the administration knows the importance of both for current and prospective students.

“We knew from speaking to students, from many of the surveys and feedback that we get from students, that we needed to upgrade our website, and it was a priority of ours to get it more focused on the students and those who are considering coming to the University of Ottawa,” said Drew Anderson, executive director of communications for the university.

Anderson said the U of O has a website to be proud of, and one that breaks the mould for university websites. There was significant emphasis placed on streamlining the website and making sure it was easy for students to find and use the tools they need most.

Anderson said there was “a focus on the homepage, on the tasks that students want, and what future students considering the university are looking for.”

He said finding links relevant to students—programs, estimating costs, searching the library—are now more accessible.

The new website is also mobile friendly. When accessed from a phone, its look, design, and feel are different from when it is accessed from a regular desktop. The website has received more than 7 million views from a mobile device since January. Anderson believes this will be a growth point for the university in the future.

The website was developed using Drupal, a widely used, free open-source content management system that will give individuals outside the university administration input in future changes. Students can therefore contribute to ongoing improvements on the website.

Anderson said it is not just the software the university is hoping to collaborate with students on, but also the look and feel of the website.

“We’ve challenged ourselves to have the website reflect the vibrancy of campus,” he said. “We have some capabilities at the university to do that but we know that many of the great shots will come from students themselves. We’re looking in the future to put together contests and other ways to get students and those who live the university life to contribute to that background.”

While the homepage and many of the other important pages have changed, not all of the website has been updated to the new format. Anderson said getting everything onto the new platform is the number one priority going forward.

“Overall it’s nice,” said Dave Sueke, a third-year history student, “but the homepage desperately needs a quick picks option that includes webmail in it. There is no reason why they couldn’t include such an option next to the Support uOttawa button.”

Kent Hillmann, a fourth-year human kinetics student said the new website is very “straight-forward.”

“It looks professional, it’s well arranged so that you can easily find whatever you are looking for and the neat pictures in the back make you want to study,” he said.