By Austin Metz
Editor In Chief
Grand Rapids Community College will be offering a soft launch of the new school website during the week of February 21 and, according to Kevin O’Halla, Head of the IT department, the school is looking to go live with the site on March 14.
The soft launch, which will last about four weeks, is being done to allow staff the time to find what students want and also ways to improve before the site is completed.
The new site was created by researching what students were searching for and how to make it easier for them to get to those places with one click. Site creators have done this by tracking the custom searches that students do on the site.
“The goal is to allow students to be able to find information in as few clicks as possible,” explained O’Halla. “We want to make it easier for students to find what they need.”
“We want to allow better access for students to get to what they need to do,” he added.
Raul Alvarez, Communications Director at GRCC, agreed.
“The more clicks a person does, the less user friendly and frustrating a site is,” he said.
Navigation of the website has also been improved to allow for easier use.
“We are trying to make the site easier to navigate on,” O’Halla explained. “The best way was to make the search more intelligent to find things better.”
Now that the site has been updated, the school will be looking for feedback from those who use the site.
“We are encouraging everyone to give feedback,” said Alvarez. “The site is a living, breathing document.”
Each page will offer a feedback button allowing students to share where they feel the site needs improvement.
O’Halla echoed this statement when he said, “The main thing I want is feedback about if something is wrong. Things like what would be cool to do or what is missing, within reason.”
Since the school is looking to improve the website and make it more functional, Alvarez explained that there are two major places where improvements will be made.
The first is in the way students will be able to search for classes. Students will now be able to type in the class and find all the information they need. The information will include a description of the class and when it will be available.
The other improvement will be with faculty biographies.
“We showed a preview of the site for Student Congress and others and have gotten a lot of positive feedback,” said O’Halla. “One of the major places was with the faculty biographies. Students will now be able to get information about their teachers with a simple search.”
Those working on the website have made many improvements to the functionality of the site, but also to the look of the site.
“We are using what is called a content management system. Currently, the site is running with two of them which creates two separate looks,” O’Halla explained.
“Now we will use an open source which is free and will allow for a more uniform look throughout.”
Alvarez said, “We are looking for a more consistent look throughout. The hope is with the fresh look, we will be able to keep it fresh.”
The way the school hopes to keep the site fresh is by updating the site. Because of this, the new website will allow for easier updating.
“Faculty and staff will now be able to update content and be what is called content authors,” explained O’Halla. “It will be much easier for them to put information up and also to blog and connect with social networks.”
The goal is to tie the site to social networks such as YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. This will allow teachers the ability to more easily post information from these sites as well as to use them in the classroom.
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