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WebMail 2.5 ready next week, new home page by summer

Accounting senior Zahra Lalwani, left, and finance junior Suad Ahmed-Hassan work on homework for one of their classes in the Manuel T. Pacheco Integrated Learning Center. A new UA Web site is in the works for the summer, and WebMail will switch over to version 2.5 on Tuesday.
By Djamila Noelle Grossman
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, February 18, 2005
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Students can expect a new look for the UA Web site by summer, while the often-delayed launch of WebMail version 2.5 is scheduled for Tuesday.

Even though the details of the new Web site are still unofficial, consistency in design and navigation, and a clean, professional appearance are major points to be worked on, said Paul Nixon, senior Web designer for the new home page.

Not everything will change, Nixon said, as the team responsible for the redesign expects to keep features that work well on the current Web site. The news section, the weather and the search have been popular and will not be changed.

"We want to do a better job on focusing on things that make this university great. There's so many of them, and we feel like they have been a little bit buried," said Kathleen Jensen, director of marketing. "We want to bring those things in center."

The UA evaluates Web sites from its peer institutions - 15 universities across the country to see what other schools' Web sites have to offer.

"We don't want to be a follower, and I think this new Web site is really going to put us out in front," Jensen said.

There will be presentations to groups on campus, including student groups like the Associated Students of the University of Arizona in the near future, which will be an opportunity for students to directly influence the result of the Web site, Jensen said.

Since the redesign started in August, about 50 people, consisting of a Web council, a Web redesign team and volunteers, have been working on the site's completion, Jensen said.

Volunteer groups consist of representatives on campus including student recruitment, human resources and Disability Resources, evaluate the Web site and make sure it will fit the needs of those who will be using it, Jensen said.

The Web site is redesigned every two to three years, in order to meet new technology standards and eventually attract more students with a modern design Jensen said.

Except for the two new people who have been hired by the Center for Computing and Information Technology, no extra money is involved in the process, Jensen said.

"There are no additional dollars at all. Not a nickel," Jensen said.

With the launch of the site more than five months away, students are invited to participate in the redesign process by volunteering for usability tests and sending suggestions to the Web team.

"We would like to encourage everyone to step forward and participate in the redesign process," said Nixon.

While students have to wait until summer to see the new Web site, the launch of WebMail 2.5 is scheduled for Tuesday.

The program was expected to replace the current WebMail 2.0 early last fall, but was delayed due to technical difficulties, said Michael Torregrossa, director of computing services.

"This release was planned last October," Torregrossa said. "(But) it got postponed, because one of the new networking components wasn't handling the load very well."

The upgrade of the old system will include many internal features like the way messages are deleted, and it will have a different design. The biggest change will be the space, which doubles from 50 megabytes to 100MB, Torregrossa said.

Costs for the new WebMail were about $40,000 for a new disc to support the 100MB system. The money was part of the CCIT's annual budget, Torregrossa said.

Torregrossa said the team feels confident the new system is going to work by Tuesday. He said the team has done "extensive testing."

"You never know until you turn the thing loose and you have tens of thousands of people using it. It can make all the difference in the world - that's what happened last time," he said.

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