umt_site_screencapture

Screen capture of the University of Montana's website, Oct. 1, 2019. 

In an effort to make accessing information easier for students, UM officials are planning to update the University of Montana website by December 2019.

Cathy Cole, vice president for enrollment and strategic communication on campus, said students will start seeing changes on highly trafficked pages by the end of this year. These include the home, admissions and financial aid pages. These pages need to be updated for the sake of students, she said.

“If we can improve their student expe- rience through what we are doing with the website,” said Cole. “That’s going to help so much.”

Cole said she is taking the amount of web traffic and the University’s needs into consideration. This involves mapping out website pages, structuring them based on user priorities and transferring data to make the old and new pages operate seamlessly. This takes a while, especially when there are close to 400,000 pages to update, according to Cole.

“Of course everybody wants everything done yesterday,” she said. “But, we are trying. We are working as fast as we can.”

Cole’s primary focus is to make the most trafficked pages appear attractive enough to lead users through the website. This means restructuring the home page.

Cole said she wants the page to appeal to both 16 and 17-year-old prospective students and current students. She wants students to feel welcomed when they come across the website for the first time.

However, freshman Shelby Schweyen said she constantly has trouble finding her classes and advisers on the University website. She said some UM website pages crash or don’t load frequently, even during her first semester on campus. Schweyen said it feels like some pages are “hidden” from students searching for degree or schedule information.

Freshman Jamie Pickens agreed.

“If I didn’t have an adviser and I needed to look for something in a specific direction, I would be lost for sure,” Pickens said.

The team responsible for implementing the update includes a web manager, a developer and several students. University administrators plan to hire a web writer and designer as well. According to Cole, over 30 students tried out the new templates to test their navigability and appearance. In order to gather student input, the web team also met with students and asked them which websites were most important. This is the most productive way to update web pages, Cole said.

Updating the University’s college websites is also a priority for the web team. She expects the entire process to take three to five years.

“College is tough. We can make it easier with some of these processes,” Cole said.