ANALYTICAL REPORT: ECU.EDU.AU 8 Essay Example

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Analytical Report: Web Architecture of ECU.edu.au

Executive Summary

This report aims to review and critically assess the website of Edith Cowan University (Western Australia) for effectiveness, particularly its website architecture. It is said such element has important roles in ensuring that its intended audience find the university’s online presence usable and accessible.

Through this analytical report, this paper also explores the way Edith Cowan University’s website’s architecture complements the brand image that the institution wanted to project in the public. It begins by describing the homepage’s anatomy then an analysis of each element and effectiveness in delivering a powerful university website. This paper ends with a short conclusion and few recommendations about few opportunities that the university through its website can take advantage of and understand about making a usable and accessible online presence to better serve its constituencies.

Analytical Report: Web Architecture of ECU.edu.au

Introduction

A university website conscious of its brand image and usability can generate higher requests for details and information about enrolling at the institution from its intended audience. For some, embracing the approach similar to corporate websites are made to better achieve its business goals and maximise investments in pursuing online operations. In similar fashion, ECU.edu.au was designed to project this progressive organisation’s academic mission and provide the best resources for prospective students, parents, alumni, staff and current students. However, through a more detailed look at the features and components of this website, it will help us decipher some important meanings in the architecture and then provide us with ways to improve or impose changes for improvement and meet the university’s strategic direction.

Anatomy of ECU.edu.au Website Architecture

The website of Edith Cowan University was very consciously developed to mimic standard university websites, and particularly noticeable in the architecture is its attempt to implement user-centered navigation. This was applied by placing at the site’s global navigation links about the university, future students, research, and community. The use of four instead of the more traditional five or seven have allowed the website to streamline and immediately direct web visitors to locate items or resources of particular interest to them. The search was also conveniently placed at the upper right side along the global navigation links.

At the website’s homepage, the big splash image, featuring a carousel of images to promote current openings and school notices, was intentionally placed at the centre quadrant to catch the attention of all intended web audience of ECU.edu.au: students, staff, prospective students, alumni, and parents. This is also key to call prospective visitors to act. This important and standard fixture was followed below by a two-column and a fixed four-item featured articles or news relevant to the constituencies of Edith Cowan University. In the same quadrant, below the featured articles, there are graphic boxes that highlight the universities commitment to serve and provide assistance, such as links to “Scholarships,” “Book Now 2011 Performers,” “Indigenous Matters,” and “Students.” The links to the social networking pages of the university was also placed in that section like Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and RSS feeds.

Moreover, the links provided at the right side corner below the big welcoming column immediately below the global navigation, however, feature resources all directed to students and prospective students alike. A color red was used to emphasised the link to student and staff portal, whereas grey was utilised to direct the web visitors’ eyes to find functional or service portals, namely links to “Got Question? Ask Us,” “Apply Now,” and “Virtual Information Pack.” Immediately below this column was placed the “Events,” where listing of university activities and event programmes were laid down.

The footer or the wide grey column at the lowest bottom of the page gave us information about the contact information of the university, campus maps, links to bookshop, international, library, online payments, alumni, news, media, jobs, and legal notices, including a timestamp of the latest time the website was reviewed.

Analysis of the Website Architecture

The attempt by Edith Cowan University to make its website usable, flexible and convenient to use was achieved partially and was constrained by few design considerations. Although the website was projecting a user-centered navigation, the only users it targeted, however, are future students. Surprisingly, links for current students and university staff are each placed separately or were spread out throughout the index page. These links for users are better grouped together. Within the current architecture, users will have to locate through the whole home page links specifically geared for him or her. In effect, visitors might take few more seconds or minutes to discover, particularly the “Students’ link, which appear to be hidden below the Featured Article section.

While the design and placement of the news or featured article below the splash banner image was appropriate, however, there are no signposts, such as an indicator what these two-column, two-row items signify. Not until you read each items a web visitor will discover and conclude that all these resources are news or features. In contrast, the Events section was given a very large headline category title, that it appear as if this was the third most important section at the homepage, next to the splash banner, and the big wide column in red bearing the “Welcome to Edith Cowan University”.

The links to the social networking websites of the university was also misplaced. Its placement alongside the services and commitment features of the website appeared as if it was only inserted at that area to fill space. The icons of the social networking links may be placed either at the lower bottom or footer area or above the global navigation near the search box.

The use of titles and text was too clinical and generic that for a private university with progressive mission, it could very much apply copywriting techniques. The “Welcome to Edith Cowan University” was too boring and void of excitement, it could neither attract nor invite repeat visitors to dwell or enjoy the experience of visiting the online presence of the university. The news and services titles were also not given serious attention because the web masters have only placed labels instead of titles (e.g., Google Challenge, Scholarships Available Now, etc.).

The colour scheme used was the only aspect of design that adhered to the branding guidelines of the university, suggesting that it employed its basic blue, yellow, red and grey colours.

Conclusion and Recommendation

In sum, the website of Edith Cowan University could have achieved its promise and enjoy its full potential as a usable, flexible and robust website to met the demands of the basic characteristic of the Internet identified by Brummett (2011), namely fluidity, speed and control, and dispersal. The creation of graphic elements, use of copywriting techniques, and adherence to principles of information design and architecture are all essential to develop and design a successful website.

By considering and consciously keeping these elements cohere, ECU.edu.au can easily engage web visitors to explore and gain satisfaction from their web experience. We can apply here the principle about the importance of web experience suggested by Lanham (2006) who argued that in an attention economy, all these graphical elements can help reveal what people think about things. According to Lanham, design plays a critical role in inviting the intended audience to pay a certain type of attention to a product, hence, has the power to persuade and convince people about thinking that ECU.edu.au is an organization with strong commitment to provide the best education to students.

To achieve its goals, here are few recommendations:

  • Engage all concerned web visitors to participate in a usability and user testing of the website. This will be conducted in a controlled setup, where random sampling of students, staff, parents, researchers, and prospective students will be asked to join.

  • Prepare a web survey to gain insights and feedbacks on aspects that need improvement at the website. To entice participants to join, there must be prizes or giveaways to be won by the winning participant.

  • Hire an external consultant who can provide an outsider viewpoint or perspective about improving the website.

  • Engage the students of journalism, marketing or advertising in supplying or crafting engaging copywriting and content writing needs of the website.

References

Brummett, B. (2011). Rhetoric in Popular Culture, 3rd edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Edith Cowan University Website. (2011). ECU.edu.au.

Lanham, R. (2006). The Economics of Attention: Style and Substance int he Age of Information. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.