Geneseo redesigns website, boosts mobile efficiency

The College Communications Department and Computing and Information Technology are in the process of upgrading and redesigning Geneseo’s website. The departments are currently looking for feedback on prototypes of the new website. Geneseo’s website has not had a major update since 2008. Digital Communications Manager Kristy Barkan said the website has needed to be reworked for a number of years, especially because of how other websites have changed. “It’s something that our department has been working on for a long time,” she said. “Being mobile friendly is really important now, especially for Google search results and the ease of use for everyone. We wanted to take it to a place where it would be simple, visually compelling and easy for everyone to use.”

Barkan explained the focus on mobile device compatibility by citing how technology use has evolved. “It’s really becoming more and more important as people view the world more and more through the lens of their mobile devices,” she said. “It becomes a part of us and the way we see things. It’s becoming increasingly important and we want to move forward, not just to catch up.”

According to web developer Jack Bechdol, changes to the current website are twofold. “There’s the technical content management systems side and the web design side,” he said. “Like WordPress, we use [a program] called Droople which allows users to easily manage their content. We’re upgrading from an older version to a newer version and it seems like the right time to do a whole fresh look for our website, so that’s where we’re going with the project.”

Bechdol works more with the developing side of the website through CIT, while Barkan is focused on the design side through the Communications Department. Both faculty members were hired during the 2015 fall semester and have primarily focused on this project so far.

CIT Assistant Director and Manager of Information Systems Paul Jackson said developments will be made to improve the website’s mobile performance. “There’s this design technique called responsive design, and this website will be implemented using this responsive design technology so that it will look better on a mobile screen,” he said. “It’s a direction most websites have been using, so Geneseo is kind of following best practices and standards.”

A draft of some parts of the newly designed website was sent out to the college community on Thursday April 21 by Interim Assistant Vice President for Communications David Irwin. The email asked for feedback and critiques on the design aspects.

Barkan said that by Friday April 22 “120 people [had] responded. We are really looking at everything you say. It’s not my website, it’s your website.”

Irwin estimated that the new website could be launched over the summer. “We’re getting a lot of really good feedback, and we really need that feedback from students to continue,” he said.

According to Jackson, there are two approaches the College Communications Department and CIT can take in launching the website. “One of the things we’re trying to figure out is whether we can switch the whole site at once or whether we need to do it incrementally, subsite by subsite,” he said. “We’re trying to figure that out right now as to which way to make it work. Unless we get that answer, we can’t have a better feel of a timetable.”

Regardless of considerations on when or how the site would be launched, the designers and developers seemed confident it would benefit the school. “The website is the virtual front door to Geneseo,” Irwin said. “That’s how people see who we are, what we are, what we offer and those sort of things, so it’s extremely important that we cover all of the bases that we possibly can through this upgrade.”