University website gets student-focused update

Gillian Mazur, Staff writer

Mercyhurst has recently undergone a new project, updating the university website. In today’s competitive college market, the first impression of a university is very important. Often one’s first impression of a school is from its website, in which a positive experience is crucial for prospective freshmen and transfers.

On average, a website should be updated every three to five years, as it is especially important for those who cannot physically tour the campus such as students from across the country and international students from across the world.

“The main purpose of our site is for prospective students and their families to interact with the university, and the main pages they visit are easily accessible through many routes such as navigation, multiple access points and search,” Dionne Veitch, executive director of Marketing and Brand Management, said. “Finally, it has a very clean and modern appearance.”

Since the start of this summer, Mercyhurst’s Marketing department has been working very hard on updating the university’s website. The new website design was focused primarily on prospective students and their families.

Through a process of website analytics, the marketing team was able to find out what worked and what needed to be fixed. Kyndra Zacherl, Marketing & Branding graduate assistant at Mercyhurst and leader of the Student Communication Team within the Office of Marketing and Brand Management, usually coordinates all website content changes, as requested by various faculty members and departments.

Under Zacherl’s direction, the student team helped to create, engage, analyze and optimize Mercyhurst’s website by moving all of the old pages one by one to the new website. In total, they moved around 1,500 pages.

They started with analytics in order to know how visitors interacted with the site. Using a product called Hotjar, the marketing team recorded visitors’ interactions to see if, when and where visitors got lost. Additionally, it tracked how users interacted with the site and experienced the website.

“For the first time, there were more mobile visitors than desktop visitors in 2018,” Veitch said.

From there, the team knew it was vital for the updated website to be both mobile and desktop friendly. Using these results, they were also able to build a site map of content, which is essentially an organization chart of the website.

“I don’t think it could have turned out better,” Zacherl said. “I give credit to our executive director of Marketing and Brand Management, Dionne, for all the guidance she provided, and it wouldn’t have gotten done this quickly or wonderfully without her.”

Mitchell Marsh, a junior Marketing and Hospitality Management double major, got to participate in the update from December to February.

“I got involved with the new website from my position on the Student Communication Team within the Office of Marketing and Brand Management,” Marsh said. “I was asked to help in the transferring of content from our old pages to our new pages, and that role grew as the project went on.”

Marsh was able to work alongside the university’s marketing department, gaining valuable real-world experience.

“This website was a large undertaking, and I was just a very small factor in its completion, but I am very thankful to have the opportunity to work with such a great team,” Marsh said.
Zacherl thinks that the aesthetic and design of the website will draw people in and give the site a cleaner and more vibrant look.

“Our old website was almost entirely dark green and white. With this site, we utilized a lot of our lime-green color that really makes everything pop and gives it that extra flair of freshness. Site-wide, all of our buttons are lime green, along with the scrolling lime-green sidebar and the horizontal line that you see in the header and footer,” Zacherl said.

Students are welcoming the updated site and have given positive feedback.

For freshmen, the easier navigation is especially helpful when trying to find out information such as the bookstore and REC’s hours as well as upcoming events on campus. With easier navigation, a cleaner look and multiple ways to connect with the university, it is easier than ever for potential and current students to interact with the university digitally.

“I feel like it’s easier to navigate around and it looks more visually appealing. People who are going onto the website will find easier access to everything they need,” Chloe Sanfratello, a freshman Communication major, said.

Current students will be able to see the new changes once the new portal updates are completed.

Veitch stated her gratitude for Zacherl and the other students involved with making this a reality and the great efforts that each put in for the website.

“Zacherl met an extremely aggressive timeline while taking care to accommodate every request of the administration. She exceeded my expectations,” Veitch said. “Additionally, many members of our Student Communication Team, Mitchell Marsh, in particular, worked countless hours moving content. An incredible effort!”