When Laurier received harsh complaints about their website, the school opted to make a change.
The wlu.ca website has a standardized format which was created in 2003 to appear the same for all searches. However, since there is no clear distinction between different information, users can easily get confused and frustrated. For example, a simple search for details about a journalism course requirement takes students on a confusing trail of links and pages that eventually lead to the Waterloo campus site. With little knowledge about the services provided at Laurier Brantford, it’s easy for newcomers to make the wrong assumptions.
According to a research paper written by Kris Gerhardt in 2012, prospective students at Wilfrid Laurier University have negative experiences with the website and have complained about it in a focus group. The report, “Postsecondary Student Mobility: From College to University, Experience and Policy” included the experience of registered transfer students, faculty and staff from both campus locations.
As explained by Gerhadt, the issues lie with people’s ability to navigate and find things within the system.
“The research that I’ve done wasn’t focused on websites … one of the most general complaints from transfer students is that they don’t know where and how to access the information they need to answer the questions they have, and they found that very frustrating,” said Gerhadt.
The report suggests that the schools website is an essential tool for students to access information. Unfortunately, the report reveals that all but one student in every focus group had a negative assessment of Laurier’s website. The students labeled the website as, “atrocious” and “not user friendly at all”, explaining that it was “very confusing.”
Issues with the website range from the little indication provided when the website merges with Waterloo’s website, to inaccuracies within the search engine.
“Our generation and generations after ours would rather go about something on the internet. [It] wouldn’t even occur to us to go speak to somebody,” said one of the focus group students.
Wilfrid Laurier University is in a planning phase, which involves two stages. The first stage includes an assessment of the website by the Laurier community and a review of web designs and technology. The second stage involves the development of the new website. The project has been proposed and ideally the change will begin for the upcoming Fall semester.
Tom Buckley, senior leader of the central ICT team and Vice- President of Academic services related about concerns with the website.
“It’s been a known issue that the architecture for the solution that manages the site … is not current … it’s a number of things that are operating today, we need to look at their functionality and consolidating them and then determine what we’re going to do in what phase and how are we going to do that,” said Buckley.
Faculty members at Laurier Brantford have also had negative experiences with the website as explained by Dr. Andrew Robinson.
“I certainly share these concerns … of course there’s the whole, why do we have a website if you have to phone people to find the information that you were supposed to be able to get from the website? I mean that’s got to be a resource allegation issue,” said Dr. Robinson.
As the website is in progression, students will have to be patient with its current state. Soon, there should be revamped website that, hopefully, it will meet the needs of users.