Official Discontinuation of Weebly at Siena Heights University

Siena Heights IT Services will discontinue the Weebly websites hosted on the sienaheights.edu domain as of August 1, 2021. This includes the discontinuation of IT-managed Weebly websites, Weebly account creation, and Weebly website creation. Last September the university officially moved to CampusPress for website building and hosting. At the end of last year and throughout the first few months of 2021 we have rolled out new websites for Weebly site owners.

This will be a fairly long article broken up into two main parts. The first part is the why, with the second part being the plan going forward.

Why is this happening?

Weebly websites have not been properly maintained or updated to keep up with the online world. Websites today need to offer secure connections, offer accessibility and features for screen readers, and able to adapt and be responsive to new display types. Many Weebly websites hosted on the SHU domain have not been updated with these recommended and sometimes required features. Information on many department and group websites are also out of date and reference individuals who no longer work with the university.
On top of all of this, IT Services was never able to properly manage or offer thorough support for these websites. The Weebly administrative dashboard only showed user accounts and provided IT with no access to websites or details on user-run websites. We could only offer password resets on linked Weebly Education accounts or create new accounts for people. Weebly phased us out of this administrative dashboard last summer, making it impossible for us to properly support the platform and websites.
More details on the why are listed below.

Poor Search Engine Optimization

Weebly websites are currently negatively affecting the university’s search traffic. When Google, Bing, and other search engines discover these Weebly websites on the sienaheights.edu domain, the sites are scanned for accessibility and other common web features. Often these Weebly sites have not been updated with modern features, and search engines then rank the websites lower in search results.
This also affects the main sienaheights.edu domain as search engines link the main website with these other Weebly websites. Marketing has noted issues with these websites negatively affecting the main websites for the university by lowering our rankings in search results. This is mainly attributed to the fact that Google, Bing, and other search engines consider the Weebly websites to be low-quality results as they lack modern web features.

Inability to manage and brand institutionally

Ultimately, the above issues could all be addressed if there were a way to manage these sites. IT and Marketing were able to come to a consensus on a website theme that was functional, accessibility-friendly, and met SHU marketing guidelines. A common website theme like this was unavailable on Weebly. Search optimizations and enabling HTTPS institutionally were also unavailable through Weebly. These features and customizations are now available in CampusPress.

Technical Details on Search Optimization

Most SHU Weebly sites do not support HTTPS. This is a major feature that search engines look for. When search engines see dozens of subdomain sites with HTTP-only support, they will intentionally rank the domain lower in results. Additionally, search engines scan for certain meta tags on a website. If they are missing or nonexistent on a site, rankings will be different. Most Weebly themes that are on the SHU-hosted sites are missing helpful meta tags and common accessibility features.

Accessibility Concerns

The majority of Weebly websites on the sienaheights.edu do not meet basic accessibility requirements required by law. This puts the university at great legal risk, and is a liability for us to continue hosting these websites. Accessibility issues include incorrectly formatted page headings and titles, contrast errors, missing alt-text on images, and more. When IT reviewed the Weebly websites for these issues, we were able to find a few dozen errors per page on each site. The main issues came down to the themes being used on each site and images not being properly fitted with alt-text.

Lack of Accurate Information and No Guidelines

The majority of Weebly websites have not been updated since last summer. An easy way to tell if a website has been updated is if it contains the “Powered by Weebly” blue box in the bottom-left area of the page. If it does not have this box, it has not been updated in the last 14 months.
With CampusPress, IT and Marketing are better able to manage websites and provide a consistent experience across the institution. We can also add editors and accounts as needed in the case that editors of the site need to change.

The Plan Going Forward

On August 1, 2021, all Weebly websites will be removed from the sienaheights.edu domain. Instead of bringing visitors to the Weebly page, visitors will be redirected to either the new CampusPress version of their website or a listing of all active CampusPress websites and pages. This will allow visitors to find and access an updated website in CampusPress if one exists.

If a Weebly site does not have a CampusPress website created for it yet, you will need to contact the IT Help Desk. ALL Weebly websites and MySiena Department Pages had a CampusPress website created for them between January and March of this year, with owners of the Weebly websites being contacted throughout the three months with information on how to log in, edit, and who to contact with questions. If you are an editor and have questions, please contact IT. We unfortunately cannot extend the August 1 deadline for any Weebly website regardless of whether a CampusPress website is completed or not.

All CampusPress websites will be discoverable by visiting sites.sienaheights.edu and clicking the “Website Directory” link in the header. This page will offer links to each department, division, group, or any other website in our system. If a link is not present, the page may still be under construction.

If a CampusPress page is not completed by August 27, 2021, it will be removed from our system. Throughout the later part of July and early part of August emails will be sent to underdeveloped websites to express the need for content. If you do not receive an email regarding an underdeveloped site, your website contains enough information to go live. To view the CampusPress migration plan and needed content for each website, visit the Migration Plan page on the main site here. More information regarding the removal of underdeveloped CampusPress pages will be communicated after August 1.

One thought on “Official Discontinuation of Weebly at Siena Heights University

  1. I plan on developing course websites that will evolve during the term as I add new files/pages. Can I do this? I cannot complete everything by 8/31/21.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *