New 'Gateway' website greets online visitors

By Patrick J. Callahan

Web visitors to UMass Amherst are finding familiar materials presented to them in a new format that was recently unveiled to the public. The new website is easy to use, easy to navigate, and friendly to those who seek news, information, and calendar listings, and those who want to provide information about events, activities and services on campus.

For the past year, staff, students, faculty and administrators have been involved in redesigning and reconfiguring — an effort that has produced “The Gateway.” Chancellor John V. Lombardi challenged the designers to come up with a new Web site that not only presented an attractive and accurate view of the Amherst campus, but one that also actively worked to unify the UMass Amherst community.

Lombardi says the new Web site meets his goals. “The new UMass Amherst home page provides an effective view of the campus’s many constituencies,” Lombardi says. “It is much easier to navigate, and it has a superb calendar function. All these features, as well as its enhanced design, help project the strengths of the Amherst campus effectively and distinctively to our many audiences among students, faculty, staff, alumni, prospective students and friends.”

Nina Sossen, Web Communications manager, led the redesign effort. “We wanted a site that was both easy and quick to navigate, but also interesting,” Sossen says. “The Arts and Events calendar gives people a new site each day, with useful content. And it’s not just change for the sake of change, because each day different events are highlighted.” In addition, anyone can submit events to the calendar or to its companion news section, Sossen says, opening the process to the entire community. Site visitors can also submit news items for consideration.

Similarly, a new “YouMass” section targets students with special links and features. A grid layout features eye-catching colors, easy-to-navigate windows with the latest menu from the dining commons, current weather, as well as a quick-answer guide to questions about life at UMass Amherst called “Ask Sam the Minuteman.”

Sossen says the new Web site is attracting attention with more than 30,000 visitors per day, including students, prospective students, their parents, staff, faculty, alumni and friends. And the site is tied to another new site, “In the Loop,” which provides comprehensive news coverage to people on campus as well as the public and the news media.