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UAlbany to Redevelop Website in 3 Phases

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The University at Albany website has been the same for roughly ten years — an architecture that hadn’t been touched since the day it went online.

Now, Vice President of Communications and Marketing Joseph Brennan and a team of programmers, interns and school staff have a solution: an entirely updated website using the latest in open-source technology. It will be released in three stages, over the course of three semesters.

By the last phase, the UAlbany website will be changed, with new graphic designs and architecture to allow the best experience for incoming students, alumni and staff.

Brennan is joined by Simeon Ananou, Vice President and Chief Information Officer of Information Technology Services.

Brennan has led the drafting of a new structure for the school website to operate on. Almost every department on campus has been integrated in the implementation of the new system. This includes Student Affairs, the College of Arts and Sciences and Alumni Affairs.

In an interview, Brennan described using Drupal, an open-source website handler, to create an efficient website with a “create once, publish many” style of information distribution.

The new website would reduce costs from outsourcing and risks, and from breaking federal web accessibility rules to errors and breaches.

The new system has been a year and a half in development, from its selection, testing its tools, and the training. The website will include new designs, and a new accessibility scheme meant to focus on student interests and searching patterns, not paths made from organizational charts.

There will also be new accessibility for persons with disabilities. All of this has been developed “to improve the website for the sake of the students,” as Brennan said. Staff have also been trained to use the new system once it is online.

The website will be updated in phases. 100 of the 30,000 pages account for 80 percent of all website traffic. The three release phases will emphasize this. In an overview document, three release phases were diagrammed.

Phase 1: Launching in December of 2017, most of the 100 pages of high traffic will be swapped out for the new pages. The OCM and ITS will have time to fix any bugs or non-functional pages during the winter session, the time with the lowest activity.

Phase 2: Launching in summer of 2018, all other academic pages that hadn’t been covered in Phase 1 would be changed. This is planned for after commencement.

Phase 3: Launching in late fall of 2018, primary administration pages will be changed, these pages having the least traffic have the least need to be changed.

This year and half long process has had many hours of labor devoted to it. The web redevelopment project, as it is called, will remake what it means to interact with UAlbany online.

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