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OSU mixes housing, dining on new site

Information concerning housing and dining services can now be found on one website, urds.osu.edu instead of two separate sites, housing.osu.edu and food.osu.edu.

Although the site is currently live, Cheryl Lyons, associate director for University Residences and Dining Services, said the process for building the new website is still going on.

She said they will continue taking feedback from students, parents and staff, and make changes throughout the upcoming months to make the site more accessible and easier to navigate.

“I think part of building a brand-new website is knowing that it will continue to grow as time goes on,” Lyons said.

URDS, comprised of both housing and dining, is a part of the Office of Student Life.

The new website launched the day before classes started and features more graphics and photographs, as well as the ability to have important announcements and reminders highlighted on the main page. This component was not available in the previous design.

Ideas were thrown around for about a year before coding and design started a few months ago, according to Lyons.

All campus locations are grouped into a database so that students can click their location and see which dining options are available in that area. The same applies for the learning communities, which can be searched for associations such as Honors and Scholars.

Karri Benishek, marketing manager for URDS and the leader on the redesign team, said the last setup of a two-website structure had been in place for at least seven years.

Benishek said distinguishing between a current, future or regional student was one feature that was taken off the site due to confusion for students. She said each of these categories gave different information and it was often hard to connect the statuses with the results.

“We really just wanted to streamline copy and categorization so that people can do what they need to faster,” Benishek said.

Needs of the site were prioritized with the Student Life Information Technology Department to develop the best results with the three areas within the housing and dining departments: residence life, workers in residence halls and dining facilities.

The department had been consolidated for two years before implementing a redesign of the website.

“It really just created a lot of confusion for students,” Benishek said.

She said students’ emails sent from either the housing or dining website would often not be redirected quickly when intended to be received by the other.

Kristen Washington, a second-year in real estate and urban analysis, has navigated on both the two separate sites and the new combined site and said she finds the design to be “a lot better.”

“I think it’s a lot easier because you don’t have the hassle of backspacing,” Washington said. “It’s really convenient.”

Benishek said the layout naturally can be difficult to navigate, due to its size.

“It’s a very large department compared to other departments and it can be challenging to navigate,” Benishek said.

The cost for redesign was at no additional charge, as the design costs were included in the payroll that goes to Office of Student Life’s own technology department.

In late-November the site will have additional features including meal plans available for 2012 and a link to the MySwitch website.

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