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By Kerry Wall

Ryerson launched its new website on Monday, but the $500,000 facelift wasn’t what some students had in mind.

“It still sucks as much as the old one, it’s just a lot prettier,” said third-year computer science student Keith MacDonald.

MacDonald said he’d prefer a more prominent display of the university’s latest news and accomplishments and information for current students.

“Something like UoGuelph.com would be interesting,” he said.

The University of Guelph’s website features campus news and upcoming events in the centre of its index page.

The recently unveiled Ryerson site does as well, but campus news is given a small space between columns dedicated to prospective and current students. Another change is the emphasis on prospective students, vice-president university advancement Adam Kahan said. Ryerson did tests with high-school students unfamiliar with the university environment. It was important that the site be user-friendly, Kahan said.

Accessibility for persons with disabilities is also a concern. Some people use adaptive technologies, such as screen readers, to access the information on websites.

Sites need to be designed in a way that allows technologies to interpret the information. The quality of the redesign’s accessibility is average, Joe Clark, a Toronto-based web accessibility consultant, said.

“I looked at it for less than five minutes, and at such a brief glance I would give it — at best — a B-minus,” he said.

Clark, who has written about accessibility for Alistapart.com and his own website, Joeclark.org, cited the font size as a problem: Increasing the text size using the browser skews the layout. Users with low vision should be able to view the site properly after increasing the text size, he added. But the re-launched site is more accessible than the old version, Kahan said.

“(The old site) wasn’t as access-friendly as this one is, by far,” he said. “It’s one of the considerations that was taken into the redesigns.”

While the number of hits the site receives in a typical day was unavailable, Kahan said that members of the community are already responding to the new design.

“I’ve received one e-mail from someone who said they had a bit of a problem,” he said. “But we were able to get it sorted out. I hope more people contact me with their thoughts.”

The site redesign was scheduled to be completed by the summer of 2005.

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