A screenshot of the new WCC website. Nicholas Ketchum | Washtenaw Voice

A screenshot of the new WCC website. Nicholas Ketchum | Washtenaw Voice

Nicholas Ketchum
Deputy Editor

On March 25, WCC will have a new website. Actually, it’ll have two: the current 10-year-old website and an all-new website—both living side-by-side, at least for a while.

John Powell, a web design and content manager at the college, calls it a “soft launch.” He said the soft launch will give students, faculty and staff time to become familiar with the new system. In the meantime, the current website (and its URL) will remain intact.

“We’re very excited. We’ve spent a lot of time on the website—we’re very excited to get this into students’ hands,” said Powell, who joined WCC in March 2018 to help coordinate the project.

The most striking new feature will be a redesigned look-and-feel. The previous site was developed in the days of desktop browser dominance, before smartphones were ubiquitous. The new website, according to Powell, is built with phones and desktops in mind and aims to make mobile browsing smoother.

“The new website has a ‘responsive’ design. . . . We want to make sure it’s mobile responsive; uses responsive design, so that no matter where you are—on the go, let’s say—you can get the information you’re looking for quickly,” Powell said.

According to Brendan Prebo, associate vice president of marketing and communications, the college has spent an estimated $350,000 on building the new website. The project has been ongoing since July 2017.

Visitors may notice a substantial change in revamped navigation headers, footers and various sidebar menus, such as so-called “quicklinks.” Emphasis has been placed on simplifying link hierarchies and improved in-content contextual linking.

“We’re trying to flatten the links; we want people to get in and out quickly,” Powell said.

The main navigation menu features all-new top-level items linking to their respective section landing pages, which now include: start, learn, afford, belong and support.

The course catalog search function is beefed up with a much-expanded filter list, along with more detailed and better-linked course information.

“We’ve organized this information to be more graphic; more visual,” Powell said. “What we’ve done is take materials that departments might have about a program, and place it [on the same page] with catalog information.”

Most—if not all—photography will feature the actual on-campus community, minimizing the use of generic-looking stock photos.

“You’ll see pictures of real students, real faculty, and real staff in the college and on campus,” Powell said.

A noticeable refreshment is an enhanced “Gateway” section with new features, such as a to-do list, and a schedule calendar that (optionally) displays a class schedule alongside other on-campus events.

Prebo said three primary outside vendors were involved in building the new site. They included The Understanding Group of Ann Arbor, Omniupdate of Camarillo, Calif., and Visionpoint Marketing of Raleigh, N.C.

Prebo said The Understanding Group handled user interface/experience work, helped develop content and helped manage the overall project. Visionpoint developed reusable design templates based on work by The Understanding Group. The templates were then passed on to Omniupdate, who provided the proprietary content management system, which powers the content to the website.

“The staff in the I.T. department, a lot of them have degrees from here and have taken classes—using computers—and have done work on the site,” Powell said.

The rollout will occur on March 25 with preceding announcements. Both the new and old websites will be accessible during the soft launch.

Powell conceded some content may be old, or out of date. He says he’s always open to feedback and making improvements.

“If things aren’t exactly right, I’m encouraging anyone to contact my office and we can fix those things—we can make it right,” Powell said.

According to Powell, no firm date yet exists for removal or archival of the current website. The full transition to the new website will conclude after enough feedback has been gathered and considered.

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