Laurier’s website soon to move into design and development

ITS and CPAM are working towards a new website for Laurier. (Lena Yang)

ITS and CPAM are working towards a new website for Laurier. (Lena Yang)

Last November, information technology services (ITS) and the communication, public affairs and marketing (CPAM) office collaborated to begin the process for a renewal of the Wilfrid Laurier University (WLU) website.

Other than a few updates, the website has remained largely unchanged for the past nine years.

“I think all constituents at Laurier know or believe that we can do better, that there are inadequacies that are inhibiting,” Tom Buckley, assistant vice-president of academic services, said of the current site. “It’s not just about look and feel, it’s about user experience and people being able to find information and affectively use the web tools at their disposal.”

The first phase of the process involved engaging a third party firm to do a strategic assessment of the current web capability. The Laurier community was also given the opportunity to provide input.

Funding for the project was approved in June.

“There was a budget approval to go ahead with the project,” Buckley said. “And then it does enter kind of a quiet phase as we build up the team, adjust the organisation so we can dedicate the people we need to to the project, hire new people that were identified as required.”

Over the summer, they put out a request for proposals (RFP) to various technology vendors to present their content management systems (CMS). They have now selected the firm and are in the works of finalising a contract with them.

“The second piece is, okay we’ve got what we need to build it- now we need to build it,” Buckley said. “It’s not as simple as taking our content today and lifting the text and the video and everything out and dropping it into a new system.”

Currently, they are in the process of developing another RFP to find a firm that will, as Kevin Crowley explained, “take the chosen CMS and design and develop a new Laurier website around it.

“We’re hoping to have that second firm in place sometime later this fall,” Crowley, acting assistant vice-president of communications, public affairs and marketing, continued. “That’ll be another big step and we can actually start what’s required to start building the new website.”

One of the things Buckley explained they are looking to do with the new site is bring all of the student user elements together.

“So really taking a look at the MyLaurier functionality, the Loris functionality and combining that into one user experience for students,” he said.

The timeline for the project has been pushed back from what was set out last November. Buckley explained that this was due to extra time they invested in planning.

“If we’re going to invest extra time, doing it in the early stages has a better longterm pay off than getting 12 months in and realising we missed something,” he said.

The new launch date for the website will be decided on in this upcoming phase of the project.

“It’s an important process and you want to make sure that at the end of the day you’ve got a state of the art, fully-functioning website that’s meeting everyone’s needs,” said Crowley. “If it does take a bit longer to get there, I hope people will bear with us. Patience does pay off.”

According to Buckley, the new website will be the most visible part of the ICT renewal program.

“From a user experience, this is going to make the difference and really leap frog us ahead of many other schools, and remove a number of the frustrations that I’ve been hearing for the four years that I’ve been here and I know we need to address.”

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