The U of O’s website doesn’t stack up to those of other top Canadian universities. Photo: Screenshot/U of O website
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uoZone, main portal are unorganized, unattractive and not user-friendly

A university website is usually one of the first introductions that many students, parents, and educators have when they are inquiring about an institution. For this reason, it is crucial that university websites give a positive first impression. If, among other things, a huge amount of time is spent struggling over finding information and answers, it makes the decision to apply more difficult, or might even be a decisive factor. 

The University of Ottawa’s website does not do the institution justice, especially when compared to websites of other top universities in Canada.

Trying to navigate the U of O’s website requires a lot of effort and patience. Any mention I’ve made about using the website to other students (and professors) has been met with groans, complaints, and colourful personal anecdotes.

While I only applied to two universities, the U of O and Carleton University, I did initially research other options and familiarized myself with many other Canadian university websites. 

Comparing the two universities I applied to, our rival across the canal’s website significantly outshines the U of O’s. Though the U of O’s website has noteworthy elements (particularly comprehensive program sequences and course details), in terms of usability (and though it has its flaws, especially in its portal), Carleton’s website is generally much more functional, smooth to use, and sports a better font. More importantly, it has all the essential information in clearly marked sections, in order to limit or make searches more efficient. 

Carleton’s website is sharp in colour and has a modern and sleek appearance. Similar in esthetic, McGill University, the University of British Columbia, and the University of Toronto all have comparable functionalities: their tabs and sections are clearly marked and the subsections and pages are easily found but do not clutter up the search results.

One of the U of O’s website’s problems is the search option. When you search for something specific, the system often returns irrelevant, inaccurate, and excessive results. Another problem is the program search tool. It is frequently inefficient in that you cannot choose to search for more than one degree at a time. There is no choice to view multiple programs from different faculties simultaneously.

On the other hand, the website isn’t very visually appealing. It seems dull in terms of colour and formatting, has uninviting and overly generic page photos, and doesn’t have the school’s social media profiles integrated on the front page. This contrasts with a lot of the other universities’ more modern and sharper looking pages, making the University of Ottawa’s seem relatively older.

Now let’s talk about the uoZone portal, the worst of all non-user-friendly evils. I can’t begin to express the amount of frustration it has caused me, and I imagine every student (except the most patient) has experienced similar issues. 

Attempting to select courses is tedious at best. You cannot compare different classes side by side or in multiple tabs, instead having to click on each individual section to view it. If you decide not to add a course, you are brought back to the add classes page instead of back to the list of available sections. 

Attempting to ‘trick’ the website leads you nowhere, prompting you to select the fall or winter term and forcing you to start the process all over again. It also isn’t possible to search for specific class times, something that would really speed up and facilitate creating class schedules or adding classes in general.

I’ve had to add and drop more sections than I can count because you can only tell where you are on the waitlist after adding the course. For other courses, you sometimes don’t even know if the class is waitlisted until after you add it.  Another issue I have encountered on uoZone is that some dropped classes frequently still appear in the class schedule.

These common problems may seem small on the grand scale, but having to deal with the website at least multiple times per week, it does become bothersome and irritating, especially at the beginning of the term.

Though U of O’s website has improved over the last year, for the sanity of current, new, future, and old students, an update is long overdue. Repairing some of the problems mentioned would hugely help efficiency and reliability, as well as the general appeal of the website. An update could also potentially help boost the U of O’s image and draw in more students.