A little more than three years after the current version of the Franciscan University website debuted across all platforms, the site is once again scheduled for a comprehensive overhaul. The improvements, said Jesse Weigel, front end developer, will both maximize load speeds and enable efficient revision.
Designed primarily for mobile platforms, the new website, which is destined for release as soon as all URLs are transferred to the new servers, will allow students, faculty and prospective visitors alike to load the entirety of the site’s content at unprecedented speed.
“If a site doesn’t load in at least three seconds, 63 percent of your users will leave,” said Weigel. “That’s 63 percent of prospective students and of donors. If we did nothing else but make it faster, we would more than double the amount of people coming to our site.”
Based on metrics that track annual website traffic, Weigel estimates that the university will gain millions more annual page visits with the soon-to-be optimized website. “It’s a huge number,” he said.
Though the new site will be accessible via the same series of URLs, Weigel said that accessibility will become streamlined. “As you go through the site and you click on links, the site is going to download in the background all of the links that you go through,” he said. “The next time you click that link, it’ll be ready,” said Weigel.
This progressive technology, originally debuted by the university on all of their catechetics.com platforms will allow access to franciscan.edu and associated pages even without consistent Internet access. “It’s what’s called a progressive web app,” Weigel said.
This sweeping series of webpage updates will also allow for a customized user experience, “based on who is viewing it” said Weigel. “We will use every bit of information we have about a user to customize their experience.” Users will be asked basic, personal information for a personalized browsing experience.
Links previously located at the top of the page will be located, upon release of the new site, under an easy-to-find navigation bar.
Said Weigel, “It looks clean, but also provides a lot of depth.”
The clean design allows for both more access to sub-pages, and for a cleaner, less cluttered home page.
As the new platform is synthesized with the old, many elements will remain the same. Alumni profiles, featured videos, upcoming event listings, breaking news and professor profiles will all remain the same in content, for as much as they may change in appearance.
“We are still in the process of bringing over all of the information from the old site,” said Weigel, speaking on behalf of the entire Franciscan University web content team. “It’s very important that we make sure that every URL the site currently has still works on the new site. It’s taking a bit of ingenuity to make that happen.”
A larger average font size and line height will also characterize the new site, and side bars will be eliminated to level the majority of web content with a user’s main line of vision.
Speaking to the new site’s technical aspects, Weigel praised new content management system WordPress as a software capable of new heights. Those university faculty provided login access to the new website will be able to revise personal information, embed videos and more, all courtesy of the user-friendly nature of WordPress back end functionality.
The website’s front end, “the part that users will see” according to Weigel, “is built on a technology called React.” React was developed by Facebook, and is now used by Facebook, Instagram, Netflix and many other big websites. “We figured if Netflix can stream HD video all over the world with this, it can handle the load we’re going to get,” Weigel said.
“With this site, we can do anything we want,” said Weigel. “If something is possible on the Internet, we can do it on the site.” The developer said he has successfully tested virtual reality technologies on the new page, and that VR could certainly become a reality for users in the near future.
With improvements that scale from 18-point font to augmented server functionality, the prospective new website, though without a definitive release date, will altogether overhaul the existing platform. The newest installment in Franciscan University web processing will shortly make its way onto computer, tablet and phone screens, collectively delivering an efficient, user-friendly franciscan.edu experience to all.