We've all seen them clogging the streets of campus.
Parents of new University of Illinois students trying to find their way to the residence halls. An alum who hasn't been back to campus in 20 years and can't remember which way Wright Street runs.
There's now a mobile application that can help.
It's not an app per se, but the UI's new mobile-friendly website, complete with Google-powered 3-D maps and directions to every major campus building — by bus, car, bike or on foot.
The mobile website debuted on Monday, and so far no major bugs have been reported, though some of the features are still under development.
Go to http://illinois.edu  on your mobile device and a dozen icons pop up with helpful information — a campus directory, maps, the Office of Admissions, calendars, social media and an A-Z index, as well as promotional features with the latest UI news. Click on "more" to see additional options.
"It's handy because it has the feel of an app. You can bookmark it on your screen," said Robin Kaler, associate chancellor for public affairs, whose office produced the mobile website in conjunction with UI Facilities and Services.
"People who are visiting, or who are on the go, really need to be able to access our website just as much as people who are sitting on a desktop machine. We want to make sure that it's as convenient and user friendly as possible," Kaler said.
The idea is to make the site an "information concierge," she said.
"Obviously the directory will get a lot of use. If you're a family visiting campus, that's helpful to have at your fingertips," Kaler said.
Maps are also a big feature. The UI website had maps before, but they were scattered on different pages.
The new maps have a cleaner look, with multiple search functions, pop-up windows with addresses and directions, and information on accessibility and Wi-Fi capabilities. They utilize Google's map capabilities to show street, satellite and aerial views, and you can also choose categories like bike trails, places to eat, performing arts and sports venues.
The map function was developed in partnership with Facilities and Services, which manages the graphic information systems database for the campus, said Joel Steinfeldt, brand manager for public affairs. The map previously developed for the website was 8 years old and was based on a static image, he said.
"It wasn't dynamic," he said. "The challenge was to come up with something that would work well on desktops, iPads, tablet computers and mobile phones."
Designers loaded the locations for the UI's 800 major buildings onto Google maps, writing a custom application and tools to manage it, he said.
The goal was to make it mobile friendly and include more areas of the south campus, near the UI Research Park, which had expanded significantly since the previous map was created, he said. They also wanted to build in "wayfaring," so if someone was using the mobile app on campus, it could show their location.
"We wanted the ability to help people find their way around," he said, including potential students, parents, visiting researchers, legislators and alumni.
Users can click on a building to get a pop-up window with a photo and address, then use a "get directions" link to find the best way to get there by driving, biking, walking or taking a bus. That function isn't enabled for mobile devices yet but will be soon, Steinfeldt said.
Designers hope to improve the map over time, adding emergency phone locations, public works of art, historical markers and memorial markers on campus, or other features suggested by users.
With the exception of an inexpensive computer, the project did not use any additional campus funds, Kaler and Steinfeldt said.
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