OSWEGO — The launch of SUNY Oswego’s new mobile website allows users to connect with the campus through a location-based map, interactive directory and many other features.
The project led by Rick Buck, Web support specialist, with help from his Office of Public Affairs colleagues and Campus Technology Services, resulted in the mobile-friendly site, http://m.oswego.edu, officially launching this fall to meet increasing demand from those accessing the college website on smartphones and tablets.
Smartphone sales surged past sales of new desktop computers in fall 2010, and the increasing purchases of iPads and other tablets like the Kindle Fire are expected to push even more users to mobile.
Traffic via mobile devices to oswego.edu more than doubled from the previous year. For the past six months of 2011, smartphones and tablets represented 3.81 percent or 122,169 visits, compared to only 1.5 percent or 46,136 visits during the same period in 2010.
A .eduGuru survey of 1,789 colleges earlier this year found only 9 percent of schools had mobile-friendly sites, with many more moving in that direction, so Oswego is ahead of the curve.
Feedback from other colleges and published surveys all suggested first developing a mobile version of a website as more important than focusing on apps, said Tim Nekritz, associate director of public affairs and director of Web communication.
“An analogy I heard from the University of Central Florida is to consider the mobile site a tool belt, in which you put the most important tools — the most useful and used content — before anything else,” Nekritz said.
“For content, we looked at what was of most value to users, especially students, that fit into the mobile form,” Buck said. This includes location-based content, such as a mobile-friendly map that has GPS functionality so students and visitors to campus can find events, lectures and athletic contests.
“Campus Technology Services did a lot of work on the server-side configuration,” Buck said. “The Office of Publications helped with graphic identity and icons.” User testing along the way focused on what content was most desired or helpful.
So far, the map and a directory — where users can email or call a faculty or staff member with one click — have been the most popular features. Other icons connect to emergency contact information, news, athletics, social media links and Penfield Library’s mobile presence. Users also can click a link that takes them to the full site, which was itself streamlined to better interact with mobile devices during last fall’s redesign.
The project also drove a change to the regular website, as the main campus events calendar switched to Google Calendar for easy mobile feed. Users can now add a campus event to their own Google Calendars with one click from their desktop, with mobile functionality coming.
The project had a soft launch during New Student Orientation this summer, where users could access a schedule and find the relative location of orientation events via mobile devices. Other colleges have found that events, from orientations to reunions, drive a lot of mobile use if the right content is included, Nekritz said.
Future improvements on the mobile site — which, unlike an app, works on any mobile device and doesn’t have to wait months for approval or updates from Apple or Android stores — will include real-time weather functionality, showing current conditions and forecasts for the campus, and a menu allowing students to see what’s served in various dining halls.