June 23, 2008

Education college unveils new Web site

by K.C. Jaehnig

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- In its first two days, the new Web site for Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s College of Education and Human Services drew visitors from Colombia, Ireland, Morocco, Taiwan and the United Kingdom plus 144 guests from all over the United States.

Not only does Web master Jeanette I. Johnson know the nationality of those coming to the site, she knows -- among other things -- the size and resolution of their monitors, their browsers of choice, how many pages (and which ones) they look at, how long they stay and whether they just stumbled across the site or got directions to it or didn’t mean to go there at all.

“It gives us a look at who is looking at us,” Johnson said, as she demonstrated the power of Google Analytics, a free tracking tool that will play key roles in assessing her creation’s effectiveness.

“I’m particularly interested in the ‘bounce’ rate (a figure that reflects the number of visitors who hit the page and then hit the back button or click out altogether). If you have people bouncing in and back out, it means the home page isn’t interesting enough to bring them in. I think (the analytical software) will be a big help to the college, and that’s what this Web site is all about.”

Dean Kenneth Teitelbaum hired Johnson last December specifically to spiff up a site that had been lacking in both design and upkeep.

“I was struck from the beginning by the need to create a Web site that would be more user friendly, aesthetically appealing and informative about the many wonderful things that are going on in our college,” he said.

“For example, looking at the former Web site, one would have little idea that we are ranked in the Top 100 of all graduate schools of education in the country by ‘U.S. News and World Report.’

“In Jeanette Johnson, we have someone with the computer skills, the Web design expertise and the time to keep the Web site updated and to continually improve its look and usefulness. I’m hoping in the future that we will be able to include video streams, podcasting, photo archives and other ways to highlight all that our faculty, staff and students are doing and planning for the future.”

Three paths lead to the new site; the simplest is ehs.siu.edu.

“I like simplicity,” Johnson said. “I’m not one for a lot of drop-down, pop-out things.”

Once there, you’ll see a kaleidoscope of images picturing various college buildings with activity shots superimposed.

“Most of the photographs are unique to the college,” Johnson said. “A student worker and I took them.”

The home page also highlights the college’s people, events and news with brief snippets of information and links offering the option to learn more. A menu bar at the top links directly to other pages on the college, its various academic programs, student services, faculty and staff profiles, and a new feature specifically directed at alumni.

“We wanted to ensure our alumni had an opportunity to see what was going on in the college,” Johnson said.

“They can also learn about different ways of giving if they want to donate, link to our newsletter and magazine, and go directly to the Alumni Association.”

In addition, a home-page drop-down menu (she does have a few of them!) takes visitors directly to the department, program, center or project of their choice.

“There’s a little redundancy, but we wanted to make it easy for people to get to most places,” Johnson said.

Other home-page links provide information on resources for faculty and staff, maps, a list of employment openings, registry information for a student resource called LiveText, contact information for key players in the college, a rationale for choosing the college and, eventually, the answers to frequently asked questions.

“There still are pages under construction, but every day I am working on filling in that information,” Johnson said.

“The dean felt it was important to have it up and running, so we opted to go ahead and publish it. We hope to have it almost perfected come August, by the beginning of fall semester.”

In the meantime, Johnson urges folks to keep dropping by.

“There won’t ever be a day when I won’t be doing something to it because we have so much going on,” she said.