UHCL The Signal
The official student newspaper of the University of Houston-Clear Lake

UHCL’s new website tests usability

UHCL's redesigned website

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Usability, design and content are accredited as the most important features of a website by Forbes Magazine. Forbes Magazine warns that by not being vigilant during a redesign, a company’s value can take a nosedive.

On April 20, the University of Houston–Clear Lake (UHCL) launched its revamped webpage. The new webpage is a culmination of work since 2012. On Sept. 24, 2015, UHCL issued a proposal to make significant changes to its website’s design.

UHCL listed seven issues that it hoped to address with a new design including: inconsistency in templates/page structure; inconsistent navigation styles; inconsistency in site wide branding/graphic elements; no defined site wide mobile strategy; organization-centric information architecture; ineffective content strategy resulting in too much content and too many pages; and lack of effective search and search engine optimization strategies.

“These issues result in a website that provides an inconsistent and poor user experience that does not reflect the University’s brand or its brand promise,” the proposal stated.

Glen Houston, interim provost and associate vice president for information resources, chaired the Web Leadership Team that was tasked with leading the web redesign process. Houston said that in addition to the changes the redesign has already made to UHCL’s website, there are still more changes to come.

“A calendar feature will be launching in January 2018,” Houston said. “[Some things that still need to bed fixed are] general usability and enhancements based off of user testing and post-launch feedback. [Another feature to fix is] refining the colleges and programs section content to meet the needs of prospective and current students.”

UHCL’s redesigned website has received compliments on the attractiveness of the new look and responsiveness to different devices but has also faced criticism from students, faculty and staff about its overall usability and content.

“In some ways it is better because it works better on a tablet or cell phone, but in others it is more cumbersome,” said Chloe Diepenbrock, associate professor of writing. “The pull-down menus on the front page are quite annoying and interfere with reading what is actually on the page. I also find it difficult to find things. There used to be a site map that I could go to if I could not find something, and I don’t see that anymore. “

Diepenbrock expressed dissatisfaction about the accuracy of her program’s description on UHCL’s website.

“My program description seems to have disappeared almost completely,” Diepenbrock said. “We do not offer a degree and had just finally succeeded in having a page devoted to Writing. Now that page is gone, and the only mention of the Writing Program is under minors, which takes six clicks to find and then provides only four sentences of information.”

The rest of the Writing page is given over to application information. Diepenbrock hoped to use the Writing webpage to advertise upcoming classes and explain why students might find minoring in Writing valuable.

Lisa Gossett, associate professor of environmental management, expressed similar issues with UHCL’s website development providing unsatisfactory program descriptions.

“Website development could have interacted much better with programs and faculty when creating the new website,” Gossett said. “When the website launched, program information was incomplete and often incorrect.  Some improvements have been made in the months since then, but more is needed.”

Some students are still finding the UHCL website difficult to navigate. Drew Girton, management information systems major, said he would rather use Google than navigate the website at all.

“It’s one of the worst school websites I’ve ever seen,” Girton said. “I have to Google stuff. I’ll type in UHCL Blackboard on Google to get to Blackboard rather than navigate the site.”

While the website’s search bar is powered by Google, students find it easier to use Google rather than UHCL’s website.

“The website needs a lot of improvement in navigation and also more graphics and diversity should be part of the website,” said Raj Vhadi, computer science major.

Not all students feel negatively about the redesign, Hunter Deardorff, interdisciplinary studies major, thinks the new website is an improvement.

“The website is doing better; there’s less clutter to me than other schools’ websites I’ve had to use,” Deardorff said. “San Jac’s site, for example, I had to Google everything.”

Darlene Biggers, associate vice president for student services, echoes the majority opinion that while improvements have been made, more work is needed to complete the vision of the original proposal.

“Student Services is pleased with the visual appeal and Google capability of the website redesign,” Biggers said. “The transition from the portal to Omni Update also reduced the number of outdated, unnecessary pages.  Student Services has been less pleased with the content of and navigation to its departments so has been working with Web Communications to improve these areas.”

Any students, faculty and staff can add their comments about the usability of the revamped UHCL website by filling out this survey provided by The Signal.