College Launches New Website, with Mobile Users in Mind

Manhattan College launched itself headlong into the 21st Century last week with the launch of a full overhauled website, with a special focus on mobile devices.

The new site, which launched last week, features a fresh new look – brought to life with lush photography and videography, borrowing visual motifs first debuted in marketing materials last year as part of the College’s “Uncommon” admissions campaign.

This new iteration of the site has been designed to be more mobile-friendly than iterations past.

“Mobile is huge. And it’s really a big shift from how we designed our websites previously. It was that you designed it for a desktop monitor and then you thought about mobile later. Well that’s flipped now,” said Jake Holmquist, the chief information officer of the Information Technology Services (I.T.S.) Department.

Some of that art on the new site may look familiar. Annie Chambliss, director of web communications for the college, estimates that roughly half of the art on the new site has been carried over from old photoshoots.

Manhattan College/Courtesy

One of the bigger tasks undertaken by the Marketing and Communication Department, of which Chambliss is part, was updating the summaries on the website.

“Some stuff was picked up fairly directly, but most of the stuff was rewritten,” Chambliss said. Most of these revisions involved shortening lists, and streamlining prose in order to shorten paragraphs.

“People don’t really read on the Internet, so we made an effort to condense the content we had on the old site,” Chambliss said.

For the Department, editing and posting content to the site should be made much easier using the College’s new content management system, Cascade CMS. Cascade is the flagship product of Hannon Hill Corporation, which is based out of Atlanta. For the service, the College will incur an annual fee, but both the Marketing and Communication I.T.S. Departments argue that the college will ultimately break even by lowering the indirect costs associated with the college’s old open-source CMS, Drupal.

But while the out-facing skin of the website was designed to attract new students, the meat-and-potatoes of it was designed with faculty and current students in mind. The new Inside Manhattan page increases ease and accessibility for current students and faculty, and is just a single click away from the home page.

The page replaces the MyMC portal, and features a quick links search which navigates to different applications, from commonly used ones like email and Moodle to lesser-used functions like provost forms and parking tickets. The portal is visible to everyone – even those without a Manhattan login.

Many of these features will also be available in the forthcoming student-designed application, which will be available on the Apple App Store this fall. BarkleyREI is not affiliated with the project.

The cost of the site was shouldered evenly by the I.T.S. and Marketing and Communication Departments. Both departments however refused to give the Quadrangle a dollar estimate as to the total cost of the new site.

BarkleyREI, a digital services firm based out of Pittsburgh was contracted in the spring of 2015 by the College to design the site after a competitive bidding process. BarkleyREI is a subsidiary of the advertising and marketing firm Barkley, which is based in Kansas City, Missouri. As such, BarkleyREI designed the website primarily as a marketing tool for the College.

The firm has carved out a national niche for itself among not-for-profit organizations, especially among institutions of higher education. BarkleyREI’s portfolio includes colleges as diverse Villanova University in Villanova, Pennsylvania, and Chapman University in Chapman, California. The firm also specializes in tourism websites, having built them for tourism organizations in states such as Maine, Minnesota and Pennsylvania.

“We really wanted to craft something where people could picture themselves and see themselves in it, and experiencing it, and being part of it,” said Ross Petrocelli, an account director at the firm, who spoke to The Quadrangle over the phone from Pittsburgh.

BarkleyREI believes it has delivered, capturing the essence, character, and charm of Manhattan College and its neighborhood.

“The Bronx and the area around Riverdale really feels very ‘home-ish’ to me,” Petrocelli said. “I think that we really were able to capture that feel and that aesthetic with the design of the site and with our art direction.”

Launch of the site has not been without its problems. Several links from Google search results no longer function properly and still need to be re-indexed by Google – especially those links that go deep into different pages in the site. An unrelated server error at Google on launch day last week caused the new site (as well as numerous other websites not affiliated with the College) to be down for about half an hour in the mid-morning.

Chambliss and Holmquist are urging students and faculty to make use of the feedback area, accessible by the link at the bottom of each page.

Moving forward, I.T.S. and Marketing and Communication plan to continue making updates to the content on the site, and the departments will prioritize the issues raised in students and faculty feedback. Chambliss said her department plans to update and unify data into the new Directory, and shoot new residence hall videos.