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Cybercol: Online Survey of UConnWeb
December 13, 1999

The majority of respondents to a survey about the UConnWeb like the homepage design. Fifty-nine percent said the design is good, and another 12 percent said it was excellent. That should make us happy about the current look of the UConn homepage.

Mark J. Roy

But it doesn't.

That's because the 6 percent who said it was poor and 21 percent who said it was fair were very vocal about what they don't like about it.

"Boring" was a common response. "Archaic" was another - and many who commented on the homepage said it was time to retire the homepage graphic that has been online since March 1998.

These responses and others from the 665 users who filled out the survey during the six weeks it was online have already proved to be very helpful - especially the criticism - as we re-design the homepage.

Half the respondents (50 percent) were current UConn students. The next largest group was faculty and staff (13 percent), followed by alumni (11 percent) and high school students (10 percent). Fifty-five percent of respondents said they were in the 15-22 year old age group - and, not unexpectedly, 78 percent of respondents said they were from Connecticut. There were respondents from 31 other states and the District of Columbia.

From earlier focus groups with students and periodic comments from users, it is clear the homepage needs a new look. Discussions related to a re-engineered homepage - including the identification of key audiences, their information needs and the messages the University wishes to deliver to them - began at the end of last spring semester. With the aid of additional input from various University groups and audiences, we anticipate unveiling a new look at the start of the semester in January.

What do users like most about the UConn-Web? From a list of specific items, nearly 41 percent said they like the News and Information page most, and the same number said they liked the site for its ease of use; 39 percent like the fact that there is comprehensive information; 35 percent like the Master Calendar of Events; 30 percent of respondents like intuitive links and navigation on the site; and 25 percent said they like the search engine on the homepage.

And what do they dislike? Thirty-six percent said they dislike the fact they can't find information; 25 percent don't like the page design; 21 percent think the link categories on the homepage are difficult to understand; and nearly 12 percent don't like the search engine.

At the end of the lists of specific likes and dislikes, users had the opportunity to make additional comments.

Samples include:

Likes: "Helps on homework and missed lectures." "Staff phone listings." "I really liked the department directory, but what about 4-digit u-box numbers?" "Homer for research." "Ability to find addresses of students." "Virtual Classroom and ECR are great!" "The search for UConn students' and staff's phone and email addresses." "Information about student-organized clubs." "The class (i.e. individual course) homepages and the virtual classroom are good resources." "Schedule of classes and course descriptions, info on registration."

Dislikes: "Search engine doesn't seem to do too great a job looking for the information needed. The visual collage is very poorly done." "Students should have more access to registration info." "Some of the departmental data are not up to date." "It's disappointing to see a well-organized, logical and attractive initial page (as this survey page is), only to have it deteriorate down the line as one links further and further into the innards of the UConn web." "Should be constructed from the standpoint of 'Jane Student,' i.e. 'I'm looking for x, how do I get there?' Is the router simple, or does it depend upon knowledge of the university's organization?"

The most common dislikes relate to inconsistencies between departmental pages, inability to find information (often referring to the homepage search engine), outdated information on departmental pages, and difficulty in finding contact information on departmental pages.

All of the results - and especially the negative comments - will be helpful, both as we continue the re-design process and for maintaining the UConnWeb in the future. The complete survey results will be available to everyone, especially the webmasters/web managers for all of the constituent websites that make up the University's web presence.

There were a few respondents who suggested we keep the homepage the way it is. "Don't mess with success," said one. "Don't change it! Big Mistake!" said another. But they were outvoted by those who recognized that websites and webpages are dynamic and changes to design and content should be made often.

Perhaps the best suggestion for the redesign was brief but to the point and, frankly, one that makes for an exciting challenge:

"Make it cool, yet traditional."