USU website has a new look

Marissa Kindelspire

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The University Student Union (USU) unveiled its new website on after creating a more user-friendly design.

The website endured a major overhaul after the marketing department received feedback that the site was confusing, said Kevin Lizárraga, USU marketing manager.

“During the course of a year we’d received multiple comments about how the website looked,” Lizárraga said. “The interface was said to be confusing in many ways, from where people could find the USU hours of operation to how to reserve a conference room.”

Lizárraga said he collected pages of notes regarding homepage problems over the past year, with intention of coming up with new additions to add to the first page that visitors see.

“This project started with a smaller idea of simply expanding the homepage,” he said. “I realized after that we’d opened a whole can of worms and needed to start from scratch.”

Lizárraga said  the USU marketing team members were unaware of general unhappiness with the site.

“We assumed the site was okay on our end and that people were visiting it to find out about our services,” he said. “It turns out that people would have liked it to look a certain was and avoided it because it was complicated instead.”

After realizing the site needed some TLC, Lizárraga and the USU marketing team went to work. The first step in the process was developing a usability test that accurately pinpointed exact problems people were running into on the site.

“We ran a pop-up on the USU site that asked for participants in a short study,” Lizárraga said. “About 10 enrolled but seven took the test which we based changes to the new site off of.”

The usability test required the seven participants to find specific pages and features within the site, while Lizarraga watched from a master screen.

“People were spending a lot of time clicking pages that weren’t relevant to what the question asked,” he said. “We would have never gotten to this point if we had held onto our assumptions about the USU website.”

Instead of finding a tab after only a few clicks, student participants were clicking on multiple tabs without being able to quickly locate the correct digital destination.

In order to come up with solutions to the newly discovered problem, Steven Wein, graphic artist said research into other school union websites was instrumental.

“As with all projects, this one began with research, in this case looking at other student union Web sites as well as other sites that provide similar information as ours,” he said. “With the initial research out of the way, work began on prototyping various layout idea.”

After laying out prototypes, Wein said Lizárraga and the rest of the USU staff reviewed possible options until reaching the layout that can be seen presently.

Wein and USU student web designer Kevin Chow worked for nearly eight months on the project, which officially started in late December 2009. The most intense amount of work took place in spring, and wrapped in August prior to the new semester said Wein.

Main challenges in development included keeping a sense of familiarity and cohesiveness to the former site, said Wein.

The website was launched internally in test versions a month before the fall semester started, in order to get feedback on the new design.

The homepage now displays a wider layout, simpler navigation system and revamped home page that showcases news and events.

“I never used the website before because it was hard to navigate and it was frustrating,” said Stacey Billone, 22,  English major. “Now things are more clearly labeled and I can find fun events to go to without the hassle.”