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Published in CenterView on October 21, 2013

Web team breathes new life into UMMC’s online information portal

By Susan O'Bryan

The intranet, one of the most popular ways to share information throughout the University of Mississippi Medical Center, is getting a facelift.

Marshall
Marshall

The private website used by faculty, staff and students is being launched this week at intranet.umc.edu. The current intranet, umc.edu/intranet, will be available through Monday, Nov. 4, so users can compare the two and learn how to find what they want, said Kerry Marshall, who leads the Division of Information Systems’ web development team.

“Everybody makes use of the intranet,” Marshall said. “More than 3.2 million users clicked on it during the first four months of 2013, and that was just the front page alone. From there, users travel to whatever information they need, whether it’s the campus menu or the latest policies regarding patient care.”

The new design is the result of a yearlong effort to gather input from across the campus. Focus groups representing internal users, UMMC leadership and the institution’s Web Committee brainstormed to determine what features were most important and used most often.

“We were looking for a simpler, more functional and better-organized portal for letting people access the information they need to do their jobs and to learn about what’s going on at the Medical Center,” said Tom Fortner, chief public affairs and communications officer. From his department’s perspective, “I felt we could get more mileage out of the intranet as a communication vehicle.”

Web Committee members had several key points in mind when it came to the redesign.

Smith
Smith

“We wanted to make sure that the information was presented in a way people could easily navigate,” said Courtney Smith, a communication specialist who represented nursing services. “Aside from the fact that the intranet had a dated look, the way the information was organized didn’t make sense to most people. Specifically, it wasn’t an intuitive interface.

“I consider myself fairly computer literate, but I still had trouble finding things on the site.”

The intranet was incorporated into the UMMC computer network in 1999. Its last major revision was in 2004.

“Among the most requested features for the new site were easy access and readability,” Marshall said. Users now will be able to log in from off-campus.

Sample look of new intranet
Sample look of new intranet

There are separate categories for stories and events in place of the intermingled news scroll.

“The scroll was a useful tool in its time, but the inability to include photos, graphics, videos and hyperlinks was a major drawback,” Fortner said. “The new intranet allows for a much more robust and timely presentation of information.

“A ‘Featured Events’ calendar will give more visibility to lectures and special events happening that day.”

“Hot spots” have been replaced with streamlined lists of the most clicked-on links. Users also can search for popular intranet sites by using keywords and phrases.

“We’ve also eliminated the fly-out menus that often were hard to navigate,” Marshall said. “The new design features easy menus that lead to lists that can grow as needed.”

The intranet’s growth and development won’t end with the new launch. Information will be added for departments or areas that have their own intranet sites, and their representatives will be trained to easily maintain the content.

“If you know how to use SharePoint, that’s half the training,” said Jason Scott, a member of the DIS Web Development Team.

As users begin to familiarize themselves with the new look, Fortner offers encouragement.

“Everybody has created some well-worn paths to get to the information they need on a daily basis,” he said. “There will be a transition as people learn new pathways, but our hope is the paths now will be shorter and more intuitive.

“Also, it’s a work in progress, so we’ll continue to make improvements and fix problems as we go along.”

For more information about the intranet, email the web team at dis-web@umc.edu.