UB's Student Association launches new website after years of outdated, confusing site

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Student Association President James Ingram has seen almost every SA presidential candidate promise to upgrade the organization’s website in his time at UB.

Campaign platforms to fix the site have gone unfilled over the past several years. The website frequently featured out-of-date information about clubs and contact information, has been difficult to navigate and staff members could not update the site themselves.

After years of difficulty, SA finally has a new website Ingram calls “simple, user-friendly and easy to maintain.”

SA officially launched its new website, which was created by SA Entertainment Coordinator Marc Rosenblitt using a Joomla content management system, on March 18. The final price is still being determined but Ingram said the new site would cost SA around $9,000. He said the only future cost would be paying an SA staff member to update and maintain the site.

The new site features up-to-date contact information for clubs, as well as a calendar of upcoming SA sponsored events. Ingram and Rosenblitt said the new site will allow SA to more easily update information, as well as add on new features at a low cost.

“To me, it was just obvious our old website wasn’t meeting the needs we had as a Student Association,” Ingram said. “It just kind of came up this year that we were able to find a good person to do it and at a price that was going to be affordable for us.”

A local company using proprietary software designed the previous site, but it had stopped supporting the site. Ingram said the software was too complicated for SA staff members to update themselves, and they had to go through the company any time the site needed to be changed or updated.

The result: a website that was overly complex, hard to navigate and loaded with information that was either outdated or unnecessary, according to Ingram.

“It was fairly obvious we needed to change,” he said.

Ingram said he did not promise to update the website while campaigning last spring because previous candidates had and were never were able to come through.

Nick Johns told The Spectrum during his endorsement speech in 2013 he would make the site “10 times better.” He resigned as SA president less than a month into his first semester as president amid allegations he mishandled funds and mistreated staff.

But over winter break, Ingram began speaking with Rosenblitt about the possibility of creating a new site. Rosenblitt has maintained SA’s information technology systems for the past 15 years and has created websites for several different local law firms. He said he usually makes one website per year.

Ingram said Rosenblitt worked on the site outside of SA duties, including evenings and when he was not in the SA office.

“Marc already had a good understanding of what the SA website would need,” Ingram said. “So he was able to develop a good product for us.”

Rosenblitt said the Joomla template offers a wide range of plug-ins and add-ons that cost anywhere from $10 to $99. SA Assembly has been discussing the possibility of creating a petition website for students, and that function could now possibly be served as an add-on to the new site, according to Ingram and Rosenblitt.

“You can really make customized modifications to this website across the board and you’re really only limited by your own imagination,” Rosenblitt said.

The site is simple to use so all SA staff members will be able to update it themselves, according to Ingram. Ingram said he is not a “strong computer person,” but even he is able to easily log on to the site and make changes without coding knowledge. He also said Joomla was a common content management system so there was a good chance someone on next year’s e-board will already be familiar with the template.

Accessing the website will allow club members to post their current contact and event information, which was an issue in the past. Students would sometimes log onto the old SA website and see contact information for clubs that was out of date. Rosenblitt said some of the information on the previous site was up to three or four years old.

“That’s always a big concern. Students are like, ‘OK, I want to join this club but who do I reach out to?’ So that will be right on the website,” Ingram said.

Ingram said there are still some “kinks” to workout with the site, including style changes and programming, but he expects the site to be completely finished within a few days.

Tom Dinki is the senior news editor and can be reached at news@ubspectrum.com