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PSU website updates to invoke prospective students

A marketing-led and campus-backed effort, the Pittsburg State University website has taken a complete remodel, updated to suit prospective Gorillas. The two-year-long effort, headed by Gregor Kalan, director of web marketing, and Jay Hodges, marketing web manager, launched mid June. 

“Well, really it was Gregor Kalan … (and) we have Jay Hodges, who is our primary programmer, those were the guys who were really the horsepower behind it and they led the project,” said Chris Kelly, associate vice president of marketing & communication. “And then when you looked upon every department on campus, we relied upon everybody to help move their material on their own homepage over to the new platform … and a lot of them had techs throughout campus that were helping them. It’s been a massive undertaking and it’s not done, it will continue on …” 

As associate vice president, Chris Kelly oversaw the update from its origin to its new state. 

“We actually brought a group together almost two years ago to begin,” Kelly said. “We wanted to look and see what was out there, we wanted to really take a hard look at the way our website was being used, what people were looking at, what they liked and what they didn’t like. And so … we sort of looked internally what we need … So we got some techs from campus, some other representatives together to begin looking at it, narrowed it down to our vendor, and then the hands-on aspect of it actually began when we began migrating from the old to the new; we got our hands on it in November. So we have been working feverishly, especially Gregor Kalan and Jay Hodges who are our two main guys here on campus along with the support of techs and those throughout campus to move information from the old platform to the new platform before we fully put it up and going.” 

Users will notice the University website has an initial new look top to bottom in order to stay to-date with primary mobile users. 

“Well, it had been almost a decade since we had moved platforms,” Kelly said. “So it’s more than just a design, we actually switched our entire platform on this particular website, and it was time. When we looked at the way that people are using our website, more mobile than ever before, less desktop, it was time to go to a new more mobile-friendly platform, more reliable, and really more robust to provide a better user experience.” 

According to Kelly, the process of recreating the PSU website has been set out in phases. 

“… Phase one was moving the old content to the new platform, and that’s what we’ve been doing since we published the home page,” he said. “Several aspects of this have gone up throughout the year; our academics pages were updated, they went up, our admission page updated, it went up first, and then we finally did the calendar and the news and the homepage here—which is what everybody saw immediately about three weeks ago. So now what we’ll continue to do is go back through, make sure all the links are up and running, get the Google search engine going, and then the fun part begins. Then we get to look at … how it’s really being used, how we can tweak it; it’s only going to get better, what you see right now is sort of the website at its base level, it’s going to improve every month as we move forward.” 

Hodges and Kalan headed much of the internal work, with Hodges’s focus on CMS migration and custom code in order to improve the website’s uptime, while Kalan focused on look-and-field changes. 

“… The biggest change has been how we deal with academic programs, before we used to just kind of send prospective students to the catalog … which is just a list of courses,” Hodges said. “Over the last year, including this migration, we really focused on bringing academic programs as a marketing piece, meaning we explain more about what the degrees are for, what jobs you can get with the degrees and more than just the course listing … And out of 300+ programs we’re more than half the way there to having a page for each of those to dedicate and communicate that to prospective students; for us that has been a big deal because it means that more people are getting the correct information, getting something better than just a course listing when they are considering Pittsburg State, and long-term we think that’s going to do us a lot of good as far as recruitment goes.” 

Goals of shaping the website to appeal to potential students as well as providing a more user-friendly interface guided the project, and those who assisted with the update hope this effort comes across with the changes. Kelly described the new website as having “much cleaner” look. 

“… (It’s) much more focused on imagery, less on text—you can see it’s meant to scroll up, which is how people are using it via mobile,” Kelly said. “I don’t have the exact numbers, but I think over 60 percent do so on a mobile device, most of that on the phone, some on tablet, and when you take on-campus traffic out that number goes even higher because people aren’t at their desktops. So some of the features you’re seeing are that, get really more mobile friendly as we move forward, you’ll see upgrade to the calendaring system … One of the neat things that you’ll see, and this is on the backside, is that we now have access to greater analytics; so what we’ll be able to do is really see is how people are using it, how do they migrate through the website, where are they going to. So if someone comes to an academic page, where are they going next? Well, that will help us as we redesign …” 

While the new website has only recently launched, users may experience some bugs and broken links. Though, Kelly said this is expected and that users who run into these are encouraged to report the error. 

“Well, as with anything, you don’t move everything all over at once … and we wouldn’t be able to do this without the help of departments and campus techs and everybody on campus … but if you find a broken link you can go to marketing.pittstate.edu and just submit a ticket, let us know where that broken link is, include the URL in it that way we can go right to it and we can fix it because we know they will be that way. …  And right now it’s a whole new design, so it’s hard to find; it’s a little like when the grocery store moves the laundry detergent and you can’t find the laundry detergent and for about a week you go ‘where is it?’ and then in two weeks you forgot that it was ever where it used to be, you only know where it is. So those are the kind of things that we’re working through right now.” 

Those behind the scenes have worked months to create the transformed website and are continuing to make improvements each day so as to suit past, present, and future Gorillas. 

“It’s nice to iterate that we changed everything, which means all the page names, all the results in Google, everything is different,” Hodges said. “Google, especially, it’s going to take 30 to 60 days before those results start being corrected by Google, and unfortunately there’s not a lot we can do about that—we can request that they reindex the entire website, but when they get around to it it’s kind of a Google thing—so in the short-them we’re going to have some issues with some search and some things that we need to fight through, but that’s really the only major problem that I see with the migration so far.” 

As the website was updated to benefit the public, the marketing & communication department welcome feedback from all. 

“We’re looking for input, our goal and our focus has been for the external audience, so to get a look at that potential student or parent who’s looking at becoming a Gorilla … and making it as easy as possible for them,” Kelly said. “So I’d encourage if anyone has any suggestions or anything, again let us know, email us—it’s your website. I always like to say it’s our virtual campus and it should look just as great as the campus here looks, and that’s where we’re going to get to. … We’re in such a better place now than we were a year ago.” 

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