New website launched

Graphic by Joshua Awolade

Graphic by Joshua Awolade

After almost two years of work, Wilfrid Laurier University’s new website is officially live. The project was a conjoined effort by the departments of communication, public affairs and marketing, and information and communication technologies.

Nela Petkovic, director of ICT renewal project, explained that over the last two months they have been bringing Cascade Server, the content management system, to life, as well as setting up templates, adding content and connecting with different factions of the university to receive input.

On Friday at 7:00 p.m., the domain name system switch occurred, at which point wlu.ca became the new website and the old website became legacy.wlu.ca.

“It was exciting when you flip the DNS and the site gradually comes up,” said Helen Exley, associate director of marketing and creative services with CPAM. “It’s very rewarding for all the hard work. It’s been a lot of long hours for the whole team. They’ve put in a lot of energy and dedication to building every page to what it is today.”

While the website was accessible over the weekend, the official launch wasn’t until Monday morning.

“We just did our last-minute ironing of links that needed to be fixed, of content that needed to be added,” Petkovic said of what they worked on over the weekend.

Although the launch of the new wlu.ca means it’s now functional, Exley explained that this is only phase one, which is why the old site still exists.

“The new site is really geared toward prospective students, graduate and undergraduate students, so it is more of that outward-facing to that group,” she explained. “For now, because our current site has over 400,000 pages on it, we can only do so much at one time.”

Accordingly, current students, staff and faculty will still be using the old website for their needs. Eventually, the old website will be phased out as more content is brought onto the new site.

Leading up to the launch, Exley said they were focused on testing the new product.

“We did usability testing with prospective students — undergraduate, graduate and international,” she said.

“We also tested a number of current students and their favourite line was, ‘This really looks and feels like Laurier.’ So you know we hit it there.”

They also did accessibility and quality assurance testing to make sure all the links were functional.

Because the site is focusing largely on catering to prospective students, emphasis was put on the information architecture. This means they designed the site according to how prospective students generally navigate unfamiliar websites.

“In the usability testing for prospective students, they went to programs — that was the first click — they went through it, and then ‘Life at Laurier,’” said Petkovic.

As such, there is now a link directly to a list of programs at the university and a link to access information about what life at Laurier is like.

Exley explained that with the old site, prospective and current students had to “sift through all the other information to see what’s relevant” to them. Now, they’re trying to differentiate the audiences.

“That’s very telling,” said Ken Boyd, director of ICT solutions. “That’s a real significant shift in how we’re thinking about the information we present. We think about the audience and present it in that way rather than try to be all things to all people all at once.”

The site also encourages the idea of “one Laurier,” where all the information is found in one place regardless of campus.

Currently, they are still working on the timeline for when information for staff, faculty and students will be brought to the new site.

“I think the only other thing for current students is thanking them for their patience and if they do find any links that are broken, or anything that isn’t working as it should on legacy.wlu.ca, to contact the web team and we will jump to get it fixed,” said Exley.

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