Photographer:Fotograaf: Joey Roberts/ Professional company Submedia records a video for the new website. In the photo: Peter Muris, scientific director of institute EPP (Experimental psychopathology
MAASTRICHT. It will finally go live in December: Maastricht University’s new website. After a year-and-a-half of discussions, writing, designing, and constructing, the worst irritations have hopefully been dealt with. No more rambling, a search machine that works properly, and a lot of images and videos.
This will be the seventh website. The present one dates from 2007, although it was pimped up two years ago. As far as the predominant colour blue and Maastricht University’s logo are concerned: they will remain. The UM’s corporate identity, a design by Studio Dumbar from The Hague, was introduced step by step in 1999 and will not be messed with. The official language, English, will also remain, although for many of the pages there are Dutch translations available.
What will change: approximately 55 thousand pages of information - as calculated by Google Analysis - will be reduced to something in the region of four thousand pages. Manon Gorissen, head of digital communication: “The present site is a maze with a lot of duplicate information. For example, on every study programme page, there is a description of Problem-Based Learning, and faculties may make subtle distinctions different to the others. This causes confusion. You are better off having one text about PBL and then link it.”
The new site will be characterised by a lot of images. There are 150 new videos and 500 new photographs. Gorissen: “All pages open with a page-size image, along with four or five fast facts. Visitors see at a glance whether this page contains the information that they are looking for.”
That visitor - “the user”- is the main point of departure. “Which questions should a site be able to answer? For a student, this will be different than for a scientist, an alumnus, a benefactor or a company that is interested in post-academic courses. In spring 2014, we interviewed two hundred UM employees and students about their wishes. We also received 1,200 completed surveys from external parties,” says Gorissen.
Three companies were taken on for the project: Contentkings from Rotterdam specialises in content strategy, the Rotterdam Finalist takes care of the content management system, and the Maastricht design bureau Zuiderlicht created the designs. Knowledge Engineering students from the university were deployed, as were editors from the communication department.
“We rewrote almost all of the texts, they were presented to the ‘owners’, for example scientists, via contacts (approximately sixty) in the faculties. They check them for factual inconsistencies, and no, that is not always easy. Some people take all the time in the world, others try to introduce their own tone.”
As far as one’s own tone is concerned, this is present in many texts in the present site, because everyone - even amateur copywriters - is interfering (some two hundred in the whole university). Gorissen’s team could not and cannot force the faculties and service centres to adopt their methodology, but the number of people who are allowed to publicise directly, will decrease, says Gorissen. “One or two people per faculty or service centre will be appointed for final editing in order to maintain some control.”
And what are the chances of ugly appendixes, pages that have been cut-and-pasted by an employee from the department? “You cannot stop that of course, but we hope that everyone will use the existing possibilities - for example to highlight research or a certain event and also to use new media - and find it so attractive that they won’t want anything else.”
The sizeable website project started with a question from the student fraction of the University Council. Whether something could be done about the supply of information. Students had to go through too many channels for information about timetables, subjects or grades. Gorissen: “We initially only wanted to tackle the student section. But that proved impossible, as it could not be detached as a separate section. We couldn’t but rebuild the entire site.”
The Student Portal has become a separate project. A pilot with 300 students will start at the end of this year
The latest service monitor (July 2015) shows that 32 per cent of UM employees are (very) dissatisfied with the UM website, 28 per cent is neutral and 41 per cent is (very) satisfied. The survey to investigate just how satisfied staff was about the various services within the UM, was carried out by Flycatcher. A total of almost 1,200 employees participated in the survey.