The ecampus website that governs the user portal for the University of Phoenix is an aggressive and modern website design. The Phoenix brand has integrated a marketing approach that incorporates Macromedia flash as a primary means to engage the user to identify the mobile web for use to integrate learning with mobility. The website is able to effectuate the transition from user activity to the classroom by using the Macromedia to visually accentuate the transition.
The use of web design to convey a message regarding the use, convenience, and service of the website is at the heart of proper design. "For organizations engaged in electronic business, the corporate website has emerged as the single most important interface through which transactions are carried out. This being so, appropriate design characteristics are required to make websites effective. Customers expect websites to be designed differently, depending on the task and purpose associated with the website. The findings indicate that there are six critical characteristics of websites and the relative importance of these characteristics varies across categories." (Monideepa, T., Jie Z., 2006)
As the University does engage in electronic commerce, the corporate website of the for-profit university is the primary means to which many of its students engage and interface with the predominantly virtual institution. The university does maintain physical campuses but the main line of business and the primary means of commerce are through its online virtual forum. The website does convey its purpose well to the audience, as the portal to the opportunity for higher education is provided.
Let's start with the main macromedia interface as the message greets the student/client. The message of "Welcome to class" engages the student to feel as if in a classroom environment even when operating remotely and interfacing with a computer rather than a professor in a non-virtual, face-to-face environment. The mobile application for download to access the University of Phoenix virtual campus is a truly innovative way for students whom are self-directed and understand how a traditional education may not yield the results nor comply with the hectic schedule of their specific target market of student.
By accessing the ecampus page, the user may also obtain information regarding updates to the operations of the virtual university as well as access information regarding new innovative changes to the layout of the virtual environment and to various updates to the academic offerings. This provides an incentive for the user to access the website and to review the materials that have since been changed from the last user experience. The ergonomic design of the site is also commendable. The access to Login information is where one would expect it to be. Generally, the Login section is either to the left or the right of the main centerpiece of the website. A MATLAB analysis of 100 top liberal arts college across the U.S. And their website yielded the following.
"For some pages, it was impossible to determine the size of the largest image since Macromedia Flash was used. Out of 100 colleges, 78% comply with the image criteria, while 13% do not. However, the low compliance percentage is the number of images per page. In most cases, it far exceeds three images per page. Most colleges follow the guidelines for background. It is worth mentioning that in some cases, the number of background colors per page is very difficult to determine, since the design of the page is not uniformly organized." (Yoo, S, Mun, E, 2006)
According to the research by Yoo & Mun, there is no ideal number of Macromedia images that may be used for a collegiate website. Some collegiate websites use too many Macromedia flash images that distort the message of the website and do not facilitate the user embracement of the website look, feel, and usability. Additionally, Yoo & Mun point to the large number of colors used on liberal arts colleges websites that are too numerous to count, in essence.
"The reader can examine the data above and get a clear picture of compliance with the content criteria. We would like to make a couple of comments on some of the criteria. Search boxes are getting very popular, but still almost half of the colleges researched does not use this feature. In some cases, it is due to simplicity of the website. 98% of the colleges do not provide access to the school's email, (i.e. there is no login and password input boxes on the page). And still most of them have links to the email login page. 66% of the colleges do not use the horizontal line at the bottom of the page. This feature is mostly used to complete the structure of the page. Some pages use background color to provide the same feeling of completeness. Finally, having a one screen home page is not a very popular feature among the colleges. We can easily calculate that average of the length in the front page is 1.83 or almost two screens. That implies that a significant part of the information on the page, is not reached by the users." (Yoo S, Mun E, 2006)
As noted with the ecampus website at Phoenix.edu, the layout is well conceived with special attention made to not overwhelm the user with too much data or too much Macromedia activity, which will distort the message and obfuscate the readability of the site. Although the website does not provide direct access to user email from that specific webpage, the likelihood of accessing the email once the user logs into his or her account is quite high. Very few universities will prevent the user from accessing their email once logged into their personal university web account.
The ecampus site is not the home web address of the University of Phoenix. Although the ecampus site does represent the portal to where one can engage the university to achieve its goal of education the world virtually, the university ostensibly offers less than the 1.8-page home webpage size and therefore is not expected to confuse the user or to prevent the user from viewing certain information on the website. Many university websites do not have the help or the contact us available as a clickable hyperlink to another webpage where one can actually either receive help or to actually contact a member of the university. Often times, one must obtain an administrative list of offices and of individuals within these offices with designated job responsibilities in order to contact any individual within the university.
The Phoenix.edu website does offer the link to the old eCampus site that they've since designated as retired. Similar to how Twitter offers the user the option of enabling the old website, Phoenix.edu recognizes that some users are somewhat adverse to change and may even perhaps prefer the older design to the new and supposed more innovative design. The university obliges these individuals and offers the user the choice of selecting either option.
University website development has also propelled students to look at jobs in web development and in other realms of online marketing and digital media. "Richard White, director of career services for Rutgers University in New Brunswick, notes that there are myriad areas where students have been applying their skills and talents to assist employers at New Jersey companies, including: technology; website and graphic design; marketing; business; accounting; project management; communications; and, of course, social media." (Studies of successful websites)
After all, part of a modern education is to become somewhat fluent in the use of web design applications for business and social use. The University of Phoenix website does imbue the user with the ability to look at modern web design in an innovative way as the university has already developed an innovative website. However, traditional universities may argue that their websites are very much functional to the university's ability to facilitate learning and do not need any marketing gimmicks or the use of a mobile application as featured on their portal web space to enable users to have e-campus access.
The webmaster provides a critical role in the development of the website. Often, the webmaster is hired internally after the design of the website has been outsourced. Other times, the webmaster is hired and develops the site according to the wishes of the university board of directors or the chancellors. The website must convey the message and look as agreed upon when speaking to the underlying characteristics the university officials wish to convey to the world they want to educate. Mohler, provides a description of what the Webmaster does, as well as the role of the Webmaster within the administrative function of web design, development, and maintenance.
"According to Mohler (1997) the role of a Webmaster include the following: technical designer, media designer, information design specialist, Internet specialist, and technical manager. Stein (1997) and Haggard (1998) describe Webmaster responsibilities in other terms, but in all cases there is a core agreement that a Webmaster must…