Nearly three years of work and $428,000 are finally paying off after spring break. The University of South Dakota will launch its new mobile-friendly website.
Discussion surrounding the new website began in the summer of 2012 with goals of being compatible with all devices and advertising to prospective students, Tena Haraldson, USD marketing and university relations director, said.
The current website is neither mobile-friendly, nor a great marketing tool. More visuals, larger photos, less text and clearer navigation will make site access easier and more appealing, she said.
“The biggest thing about it was that it was not compatible with smaller devices like tablets and phones,” Haraldson said. “The company we used was not keeping up with responsive design.”
USD transferred companies because of the old company’s inability to keep up with technological demands.
“We switched everything,” Haraldson said. “We switched the content management system, so we had to get new software, and we went with a company called Sitecore, which is a very powerful, commercial-grade software.”
The launch does not mean the process is over. Haraldson said about 80 people around campus in various departments will be given editing rights to the website as campus life changes.
One hope is for the new website to bridge the old website’s content. Some current students are writing and taking video and pictures to highlight student life on the new website.
Junior Abby Pierce is a public relations intern and works between eight and 12 hours a week for the marketing department.
Pierce transfers press releases from the old website to the new website. She also writes new press releases and has seen the new design.
“I think it’s great. I think it’s a lot more user friendly than our current website, and it’s a lot more modern looking,” Pierce said.
The new website should also improve USD’s recruiting ability, Haraldson said.
“It’s less of an old-fashioned phone book about USD, and it’s more of a marketing tool,” Haraldson said. “We’re really putting prospective students first.”
Part of attracting new students will be showing what student life at USD is like
“We do need a selection of things that show USD students in their real life, because that’s really what a high school student would want to see,” Haraldson said.
Junior Peter Chapman is another student intern who has been working on shooting and editing video for the website.
One of the projects Chapman is working on is a video showing USD’s campus.
“There’s a ‘Welcome to USD’ video that just quickly shows you the campus in general. It’s pretty short, but it captures the campus,” he said.
The student portal that is used for class materials, grades and discussions will not be changing.
“We got that done first, because we also wanted that to be responsive, so now you can do anything on the portal from your phone,” Haraldson said, “The portal is already done, and now we’re turning our attention to the public website.”
Haraldson said some elements of the portal will be brought to the main, public website.
“In the past, anything dealing with current students was in the portal and behind the password, and we’re pulling all of that out and we’re putting it on public display,” she said.
Haraldson hopes USD’s new website will stay modern and save the department from more work in the future.
“We wanted to build something that would last years into the future and keep up with the times. So it isn’t just building it one time and quitting,” she said. “We tried to pick software that we thought would have new advances all the time.”
(Photo: The university’s marketing department is advertising the new website with posters across campus. Nathan Ellenbecker / The Volante)