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August 2, 2006

UMBC's New Homepage & Portal

On August 3, UMBC is launching a new home page on the Web (www.umbc.edu) and myUMBC portal (http://my.umbc.edu). The strategy for the August 2006 launch and future phases is to refocus the UMBC homepage on the needs of external users, while making myUMBC more useful to internal users through richer content and self-service options.

The redesign, a collaborative effort between the Offices of Institutional Advancement (OIA) and Information Technology (OIT), reflects input gathered over the last three years during talks with prospective undergraduate and graduate students, and UMBC students, faculty and staff.

The Goals

UMBC's enrollment goals play an important role in the homepage design. In order to attract prospective undergraduate and graduate students, it will be important to use the homepage as a marketing tool, promoting campus life and student success stories, for example. Site users and prospective students said that information on both the old homepage and portal was hard to find and the homepage did not give a sense of the campus or what it is like to attend UMBC.

The new design by Jim Lord '99, OIA's associate director of creative services, features an upgraded navigational scheme that highlights audience-specific resources (prospective students, parents, alumni, etc.), a collage of campus photos and more room for events and feature stories. The new homepage and portal will also highlight our 40th anniversary and upcoming capital campaign.

The new myUMBC was designed by UMBC's new campus portal architect B. Collier Jones in OIT. The redesign changes the look and feel of the campus’ internal site, which provides access to tools and utilities faculty, staff and students need to do their work and live on campus. For now, most of those functions remain the same; the presentation, however, has changed.

For the fall 2006 launch, the new portal is particularly focused on the needs of students and will be a one-stop shop for news about what's happening on campus. The Start Page features announcements, information about upcoming events and news of interest to undergraduate and graduate students, such as student government, information about registration and commencement, residential life, arts and athletics.

In the next year, faculty and staff will have their own Start Pages, but the new portal currently features a front-page "dashboard" with access to most popular applications for faculty, staff and students—blackboard, e-mail and Oracle Calendar (for faculty and staff).

Additional Homepage & Portal Features

Both the redesigned Web site and myUMBC now feature an A-Z site index of departments and areas of interest. The index features a form that allows users to submit listings they want to see included in the index.

The university-wide calendar has also changed. The link for "calendar" now points to a calendar feature that is part of the software used throughout campus for scheduling events and locations. Any events that have been scheduled on campus will appear on the calendar, and the calendar link on the homepage will go to a "Hot Events" page. While the UMBC portal will focus on promoting events for students, faculty and staff, "Hot Events" will focus on events of interest to our external audiences and will give prospective undergraduate and graduate students a sense of life on campus.

Students who have events they would like listed on the calendar should continue to go through the Office of Student Life's event advising process. For more information, call 410-455-3462.

The new calendar will function better than the old one, whose vendor no longer supports it, and soon, it will look better, too. It's scheduled to receive a new look within the next few months.

What Happens Next

This facelift is just the beginning of plans to improve UMBC's Internet presence. The OIA and OIT Web team, collectively known as "Emedia," calls it "a down payment" on the future sites. In addition to Jones and Lord, the team includes John Fritz, director of instructional technology and new media and Jackie Ward, campus Web architect from OIT and Eleanor Lewis, associate director of internal and digital communications from OIA.

Over time, the Emedia team will redesign secondary and interior pages to match the new look and feel, create templates for departments to use on their sites and create a new style manual and guides for Web developers.

The future also holds much more for myUMBC. The start page will become more customizable so users can add the functions they use most. Also, an "Alerts" system will let students know, for example, when their bills are overdue, if the campus is closed due to inclement weather, or if they are eligible to join an honor society.

Throughout the next year, the Emedia team will evaluate the response to this initial phase, making changes where they're needed and continuing to build on the improvements. To make it work, your feedback is welcome. Please send your comments and suggestions to helpdesk@umbc.edu. You can also monitor plans and developments as they evolve through the Emedia Webteam blog.

Posted by elewis at August 2, 2006 10:11 AM