Pennsylvania State University World Campus website responds appropriately to users, emphasizes service, and projects a distinctive identity.
How this practice supports access: Pennsylvania State University constantly seeks to improve the website for the World Campus, which is the initial contact point for many students and prospective students. Launched in 1997, the original website for Penn State's World Campus was somewhat reactive, built in pieces responding to changing needs as they were identified. The pages were content-rich, but lacked clear focus, making the site difficult for students to relate to and navigate. Trying to be "all things to all people," the site lacked a distinctive identity. In the design for the new website, the World Campus wanted to respond appropriately to users, emphasize service, and project a distinctive identity. 1. The new website enables users to quickly identify the best path for them in their roles as prospective/current students, corporate decision-makers, or faculty/distance education professionals and to navigate from page to page and channel to channel. 2. Emphasize service, channels incorporate decision-making tools, such as links at the tops of pages for individual choices, resources for students and faculty, and profiles and introductions for prospective affiliates. 3. The website emphasizes a distinctive World Campus identity by using art, style, and "you messages" that engage visitors. As the first point of contact for many prospective students and corporate partners, the website must first facilitate inquirers' access to information about programs and services and then provide students with a clear and effective link to those programs and services. The World Campus is achieving these goals through the on-going evaluation and revision of its website. WCET (Western Cooperative for Educational Telecommunications) offers additional examples and resources for service-centered Websites.
In Spring 2001, World Campus Website visitors were randomly invited to participate in a short survey that focused on the following features: organization/layout, ease of finding information, navigation, speed of moving around the site, and usefulness of information. Responses were received from 236 visitors. With respect to organization/layout of the homepage, 93 percent of the responses were "Good", "Very Good", or "Excellent". Most of the respondents (94%) were satisfied with the speed of moving around the site, while 89% found the navigation "Good" to "Excellent". More than half (68%) found the information useful and 76 percent were satisfied with the ease of finding information. This high-level-of-satisfaction trend continued when visitors evaluated the Adult Education, Geographic Information Sciences, and Webmaster fact sheets. Overall satisfaction ratings were 80 percent or greater for visitors to these sites. Open-ended responses also reinforced these trends. In order to establish the distinctive World Campus identity, University visual, editorial, and web style guidelines were implemented. In addition, message points identified by marketing research and graphics depicting students and other Penn State imagery were integrated to help reinforce the Penn State and World Campus "brands."