SA’s new website is costly and lacked student input – but at least it works

Revamped website is an improvement from the past, but SA could have been more transparent

For years, the Student Association’s website has been a dysfunctional, rarely updated eyesore.

Now, after a costly redesign, the site is still an eyesore, but at least it’s functional and up to date.

The new site is certainly an improvement over its predecessor. It offers the information that it should, including an events calendar and updated club information.

SA staff now have the capability to update the site on a regular basis, so issues with inaccurate, old information remaining online will likely be avoided.

But to put it simply, the site is ugly. Its design is extremely simplistic and childish, with overly sized fonts and large blocks of color. Photos and graphics compete for attention and the layout is embarrassingly remedial.

The appearance of a website certainly is secondary to its usability, but this site does little to encourage students to view the SA as a professional organization deserving of respect and support.

And in terms of function, the site is flawed, too. Despite the simplistic layout, the website isn’t easy to navigate, as information that students want most – like details about upcoming events – aren’t immediately apparent.

With such an imperfect final project, the high cost of this redesign is especially questionable – the price tag on this new site was around $9,000.

Paying thousands of dollars for a website could be justified – an organization’s web presence is incredibly important – but that website better be impressive, and the SA’s page clearly is not.

It’s a good start and SA President James Ingram should be commended for taking initiative on this project, especially since previous presidents have promised to update the site, but failed to follow through.

But it’s a starting point, and a starting point shouldn’t cost almost $10,000.

Less impressive, however, are the details of the redesign process – especially the hiring choices that the SA made.

SA Entertainment Coordinator Marc Rosenblitt designed the new site. Rosenblitt has created several websites and has maintained the SA information technology systems for 15 years.

Although the appeal of staying in house and working with someone SA knows and trusts is understandable, it’s clear that this project required someone whose full-time responsibility is website design – not someone who is juggling the project in between organizing SA events.

The intentions behind hiring Rosenblitt are somewhat defensible, but the SA should have cast a wider net.

On campus alone, there are numerous individuals and clubs with experience in layout and graphic design who could have created a site that looks less elementary for substantially less money.

Some students in the SA club Association for Computing Machinery told The Spectrum they and other clubs would have made a comparable site for an increase in their budget.

There were more – and better – options to pursue in this redesign, and it’s unfortunate that they were overlooked. Ingram said that SA is open to students’ input in improving the site for the future and the current template is designed for improvements and additions.

But his lack of initial communication with UB’s student body about the website is concerning. SA should be transparent in its transactions as it spends student money. If this website is for the students and paid for by students, why were they not asked for input or even told of its creation?

While we commend Ingram for updating the confusing, outdated site, he shouldn’t have kept the plan for the new site entirely within SA – especially when the site is meant to attract UB students who may not know that much about the organization that takes $94.75 of their tuition every semester.

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