JSC’s website to get a total rehab

Depending upon whom you talk with, Johnson State College’s website is outdated, or difficult and labor-intensive to maintain, or fails to project a cutting-edge image to prospective students. Everyone, it seems, can agree on one thing: it’s time for a complete overhaul of www.jsc.edu.

“We’re going to make it happen,” said Deb Bouton, director of college communications, marketing, and print services. Bouton serves on the committee that met Nov. 27 to narrow down the list of prospective firms interested in tackling the project. That list is now down to two.

The selection process, which involved considering over 30 different bids, is coming to an end. “We’re hoping to choose a designer before Christmas, before break, and we hope to get started in the new year, with a late summer or early fall launch,” said Web and Communications Manager Melissa Weinstein.

In selecting a firm to handle the redesign, JSC is focusing on a number of criteria: proven experience working with higher education, a simple, user-friendly interface, a design that is versatile enough to allow users to use the site easily on a variety of devices, and perhaps most importantly, an ability to work within JSC’s budget.

Bouton said that JSC, strained with limited resources for one-time expenses such as the proposed website redesign, has had to get a little creative with how it pooled together the approximately $150,000 needed for the overhaul. “We’re pulling money out of our advertising budget, and some of admissions’ money is coming out to pay for it,” said Bouton.

The creative financing reflects the severity of the need to handle this problem immediately. The problem is the existing website, which is eight years old. “In that time, technology has changed a lot,” said Weinstein.

“It was very functional in its time,” said Bouton. “You can find what you’re looking for, but it’s very rigid. The design is very rigid.” The website, clunky and awkward for users, is even worse for administrators, the folks behind the curtain who maintain the site.

Bouton relates a saga, one she has clearly told before, to demonstrate the primary problem she and her department have had to contend with.

JSC designed an on-line tour but there was a big problem: “We had nowhere to put it,” said Bouton. The rigidity of the website wouldn’t allow her to create a dedicated box just for the tour, and Bouton was running out of ideas. “Trying to put this tour on the homepage, I said, ‘Well—“Did-you-know?”’ Let’s put it in the ‘Did-you-know’ box. So it became the ‘Did-you-know-we-have-an-online-tour?’ It’s that rigid.”

The goal for the new website is to provide JSC with a digital makeover. “It certainly will have a fresh, updated look,” said Weinstein.

She stressed that designing the site to accommodate ever-evolving devices with varying screen sizes and proportions is important. The new site needs to be as user-friendly on lap-top screens as it is on a tablet or phone.

“The public website is essentially a marketing tool for the college,” said Weinstein. “That’s our primary goal…Our final choice will be someone who is able to graphically convey who we are and what kind of college we are.”

This new website will be JSC’s third. The first ran from 1998 through 2004. The current site went live in 2004.