Published November 18, 2014
Good news: UBIT’s website is getting a mobile makeover.
The new mobile site, which debuts November 19, 2014, is not just a “shrunk-down” version of the desktop site. It has been redesigned with a focus on easy access to the information UB’s students and faculty need most while on-the-go. To start using the new mobile site, open the Web browser on your smartphone, go to buffalo.edu/ubit, and voila.
What’s improved? For one thing, the redesign for the small screen means less clutter, better navigation and more finger-friendly buttons. You can contact the CIT Help Desk with a single tap. It’s also easier to check the status of IT services, see computing site hours, read the UBIT News, and search UBIT’s step-by-step instructions for everything from connecting to UB’s networks to configuring your email. Faculty can look up their classroom combinations when they need to.
The mobile update is a response to the changing way UB students, faculty and staff are using the Web. Last year, the percentage of UBIT website visitors using a mobile device doubled. According to UBIT’s 2014 Student Experience Survey, 40% of UB students own a tablet of some kind, and an overwhelming majority (almost 80%) of students brings a smartphone to campus. This is in line with national trends: 2014 marked the first year in which people in the U.S. spent more time accessing the Web via mobile apps than they did browsing the Web on a desktop (source: comScore).
More and more people expect the Web to look and act like mobile apps. It’s something many students find lacking on UB’s sites. Adam Gannon is an Electrical Engineering grad student, and while he told me that some of UB’s sites work well (he listed Campus Dining & Shops and the Libraries), he sees some room for improvement. “Most of the other UB sites are okay,” he told me. “But they’re not optimized for mobile.”
Adam’s observation will not be true for long. The UBIT website’s mobile-friendly transformation is only one of many mobile revamps slated for UB sites. The effort is being led by a partnership between the Office of University Communications (UC) and Enterprise Application Services (EAS), part of UB Information Technology. Two other mobile-friendly sites have already rolled out as part of this initial pilot phase: Law (law.buffalo.edu) and International Admissions (buffalo.edu/internationaladmissions).
“I’m very impressed with the thorough approach UBIT has taken to make their website as mobile-friendly as possible,” said UC’s Director of Strategy and Online Communications Rebecca Bernstein. “As we roll the mobile updates out to additional UB departments, this will be one of the websites we point to as an example of how to do it right.”
Ah, we thought you’d never ask. The new UBIT mobile website uses a little something called “Responsive Web Design” (RWD). The basic idea is that the website detects the size of the screen you are looking at, and then “responds” by providing a version of the site suited to the size of your screen. This automated process allows website authors to focus on crafting excellent content: no need to make different versions of their website for different devices. Best of all, as hinted at above, the RWD technology will be baked into future UB websites hosted in the University at Buffalo’s content management system.