A new Web presence

York University is about to achieve a Canadian first. On Friday, Sept. 24, York’s new external Web site, designed specially for outsiders, will launch on the Internet just in time for the Ontario Universities Fair. This means that York University will have two home pages – an external page and an internal page – each with its own distinct purpose. Unique in Canada, the York external Web site has been designed as an entry point to showcase York’s many strengths to prospective students and visitors.


Above: Home page of York’s new external Web site

For members of the York community, it’s important to know that it will be business as usual. You will simply have to reset your home page to www.yorku.ca/yorkweb. After that, you will be able to follow the internal site as before. (The “old” site simply becomes the internal site.) The external community will access the new York home page at www.yorku.ca. Both the internal and external Web sites will remain accessible to all. There will be a link from the home page of the external site to the internal site, labelled “Current students, faculty and staff”.

The two sites will complement each other, with the external site highlighting the advantages of York to outside audiences. “The existing York Web site tries to address the needs of a large number of different groups – from high-school students researching universities to staff getting information on processing expense claims. The scale of this task really is beyond the ability of a single Web site to do all of these things well. The move to having two sites is to try to do a better job of addressing the unique needs of different users of the Web site,” explained Bob Gagne, York’s chief information officer and executive director of Computing & Network Services.

The external site will feature an enhanced design and content that demonstrates the power and potential of the University. It showcases York’s many strengths – its people, its interdisciplinary research, its international scope, and its collaborative programs and specialties. Simplified navigation tools will allow visitors to move quickly to their destination. The external site will in essence serve as a road map for visitors to explore York University and discover, with ease, the information they came to find.


Above: Future students will be able to navigate to areas of specific interest to them

“They want to know, ‘What kind of University is York?’, ‘Does York offer the program that I want?’ and ‘How do I apply?” said Rob Tiffin, York’s assistant vice-president enrolment management and registrar. “The new external site streamlines information and makes their use of the site more intuitive.”

Currently, there are over 500,000 Web pages linked to the existing York home page. There is a greater risk that pages are outdated, have limited content appeal, contain incorrect or redundant information or are simply confusing. The new external site is designed to cut through the confusion. Its launch has been timed to coincide with the Ontario Universities Fair on Sept. 24 and the start of the new recruitment cycle. It will also help channel student enquiries for the upcoming January admission.

For York’s faculties, departments and units that have posted their own Web pages, their existing sites will be accessed as they always have been. All information will remain in its current location, although certain pages that are better suited to an external audience may eventually migrate to the new external site.

“While the new home page represents a huge step forward, the project is the beginning of a long process to improve York’s Web identity,” said Richard Fisher, York’s chief communications officer. “It provides a strong foundation to move York forward.”

On Friday, when a 17-year-old student from Mississauga looks at the York University home page, she will see a headline with a link to more news. This information will be updated frequently. Six advertisements highlighting York University’s multidisciplinary approach will run in rotation, in two sets, each time the site is refreshed. This will reinforce York’s “Redefine the Possible” message and brand. In addition, there are links for future students, parents and family, counsellors and teachers, graduate students and continuing education. A separate link provides navigation for current students, faculty and staff.

That 17-year-old from Mississauga will also be able to find out about what sets York University apart from its competition. She will be able to take a tour and get immediate directions to the campuses. She will also be able to get instant feedback and information on how to apply to York, hunt for scholarships and, at a later date, check the status of her admission. Her parents, teachers and counsellors will also be able to bone up on why York University is the best choice for her. 

Web site FAQs

Here is a set of frequently asked questions prepared for the launch of the new site.

What do we mean by a new external website?
The current Web site has around 500,000 pages and can be extremely confusing for outsiders who are not familiar with York. Obviously this is not ideal if we are aiming to attract students or influence other external audiences. The new external Web site will initially total under 1,000 pages and will either contain, or provide easy links to, information that outside audiences are seeking. The URL is www.yorku.ca and will go live on Friday Sept. 24.

What will happen to the current site?
The current Web site (referred to as the internal site) will now be primarily for current students, staff and faculty. The long-term goal will be to post on the internal and external sites only information relevant to their respective audiences. Both the internal and external sites will remain accessible to all. The current Web site can be accessed directly from www.yorku.ca/yorkweb or via a link off the home page of the external site.

What’s driving the timing of the external web launch?
The goal is to be ready for the Ontario Universities Fair, which starts on Sept. 24 and marks the effective beginning of the new recruitment cycle. This is also good timing for prospects considering January enrolment.

My unit has just undergone a Web site redesign. Will all of this work have to be redone?
No. Conforming the look to the internal site remains the right thing to have done as the unit sites will still remain located on the internal site. However, now they can be accessed from the external site too.

Won’t that mean there will be two different looks?
Yes, but right now there are hundreds of different looks on the internal site. If we can get as close as possible to an external and an internal look, it will be far less confusing for the outsider.
Will my information be on both Web sites? What happens to the old links?
It’s business as usual. Your information will remain where it currently is and will look as it currently does. Any pages on your site linked from the new Future Students pages will remain intact. Any links from your site to the former Admissions site should be examined to ensure they are still active. Redirecting of links for the most commonly referred to pages will be in place from the launch date until the end of 2004 and a list of new URLs for the Future Students site will be posted on Friday.

As a current student, staff or faculty member, will I need to change my home page settings in order to view the internal site?
Your homepage setting should be set to view www.yorku.ca/yorkweb for the internal site. If you do not adjust this, you will be defaulted to the external site www.yorku.ca and will have to click on the link for “Current students, faculty & staff” in the upper right-hand corner.