Radford University will be a leader in higher education this spring with the launch of a fully mobile-optimized website.
The first phase of the project, launched this week, includes the "core" website geared toward prospective students. The second phase, to include the remaining college, academic department and administrative websites, is expected to launch in February.
"At RU, we have seen significant growth in the percent of people visiting our website using a mobile device,” said Jaime Hunt, director of the Office of Web Communications. "Mobile traffic to radford.edu has increased fivefold over the last two years, and industry projections indicate mobile traffic could exceed desktop traffic in the next five years. Rather than wait for those numbers to rise even further, Radford University is responding to that trend by being one of the first higher education institutions in the country to provide users a fully mobile-optimized Web experience."
Hunt noted that, while a number of other universities have created mobile websites, the RU approach is different.
"We aren't creating a mobile website that contains a small subset of content," she said. "Rather, we are making our website mobile. Every piece of content in the university’s content management system will be accessible on the mobile site—and will be optimized for the smaller screen size."
Among the benefits, Hunt said, the optimization will eliminate the need for users to "pinch and zoom" when visiting the website with a mobile device. Users will also find the navigation architecture matches that of the desktop site, making it easy to find information quickly while on the go.
The importance of having a mobile website is highlighted when looking at the growth in prospective students visiting college sites on a smartphone. According to a 2012 Noel-Levitz study, in spring 2011, 14 percent of students visited a college website using a mobile device. In spring 2012, that number jumped to 52 percent.
"One of the key functions of our website is to attract prospective students as well as to provide them with the information they need to make the decision to attend Radford University," Hunt said. "Our mobile website allows us to do that with the same quality and effectiveness as our desktop site."
Hunt noted that the optimized mobile website differs from the university's mobile application, RU Mobile. A mobile website does not require any type of download; instead, it provides direct access to its pages. Mobile applications, or "apps," must be downloaded and installed by users. The app's sub-applications use native features of the phone to access to site, and tools are limited to those included in the app.
RU's DoIT recently upgraded its RU Mobile app, launched in August 2011. RU Mobile now provides additional functionality for users, including the ability to check grades, a social media sub-app that connects users to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube; a revamped RU Flickr site; and improved functionalities for the RU directory, events calendar and class schedules.
"RU wants to be proactive and have a well-rounded mobile strategy featuring both the mobile app and an optimized mobile site," Hunt said. "Our Web visitors and campus users will all benefit with improved access to all of the website's information."