The improvements and issues with the new Nicholls website

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Recently, the Nicholls State University website was completely renovated, and some students have experienced issues with it.

The old Nicholls website was disconnected on Friday, September 27, around 6 p.m., and a new, temporary page was launched.

Jerad David, director of Nicholls department of marketing and communications, said the old Nicholls website had been running off of a server in the Information Technology Department for nearly two decades.

David said that this became an issue in emergency situations, such as storms, when the electricity would go out. The server not only had to have a backup generator on Nicholls campus, but Nicholls also had an emergency backup server located at Louisiana Tech University’s campus.

The old website also didn’t have enough bandwidth to add or support any more visual activity, and many links on the website led to pages that had single sentences, which had taken up a lot of storage. Also, David said that many people had expressed that they thought the website was confusing and hard to navigate.

David said that since the Nicholls website is the first thing most students see about Nicholls, it’s very important that the website is visually appealing and gives students a good feel for the university.

“We wanted to look at the website as a customer tool,” David said.

David said his department began to do research on other schools and their websites, and they found that many universities were outsourcing their website. They then found a company, WP Engine, which uses Google cloud servers to host websites.

“By taking your website from on-campus and moving it off-campus to a cloud-based server, in theory, there is a 99.9 percent up time, so there is only a 0.1 percent chance that your website will ever go down,” David said.

David explained that the switch not only alleviated the need for an emergency backup server, but it also provided the bandwidth desired for the new website.

When the old website was shut down, a temporary website was put up in its place, so students could still access the links that they needed, such as Banner and Moodle. However, when this happened, David said that the server on campus and the server with Google, “weren’t playing nice.”

“We could’ve trained every single individual on campus in how to use the new website, and it still wouldn’t have prevented the problem that we had,” David said.

David said that Jason Graham, the website designer and content manager, put in hours of work to try and make sure the website was just right, but there was no way for them to know the issues that would occur when the site went up.

David said the connection issues were caused by the transition from nicholls.edu to www.nicholls.edu. He said the entire following weekend was spent trying to get the website fixed and its pages back up.

One thing David said that has been the biggest reported issue with the new website since it’s going up is trouble using the search box. He said that the way in which search is done on the website is now Google-based, and it requires the generation and uploading of an entirely new site map.

The site map has been generated and uploaded to Google, and David said the search function is beginning to work better. However, he said that because of the way Google’s search engine works, it will take time and use for it to become functional.

“It’s kind of unfortunate because it takes people searching the website for it to grow in Google’s search engine,” David said.

David said that usually when website transitions happen, issues such as these are bound to take place.

“We’re sorry that the whole problem happened. I can say that Jason and myself are both very upset over the fact that this happened,” David said. “We wanted this transition to go as smooth as possible.”

David said that his department has begun reaching out to meet with each of Nicholls’ departments individually to discuss the issues that members are noticing on their department’s web page. During these meetings, Graham is usually able to fix the issues and regrant accessibility to the usual editor of the page.

Another thing David said they are working on for the future of the website is making sure that there is a head shot of every faculty and staff member working at Nicholls. He said he’d even like to give out questionnaires to the faculty and staff to learn more information about them so that it can be added to the website and give students a more personal look into their lives.

“We want to give our students the opportunity to really know the people that they’re interacting with when they come to Nicholls,” David said.

David asks that if anyone has suggestions on how to make the website better, send those suggestions to the university’s marketing and communications department.

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