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ITCS unveils redesigned online classified site

Students trying to purchase football tickets from other people now don’t even have to leave their homes. A new Web site, http://marketplace.umich.edu, is making it easier to buy, sell and trade with others, right from their personal computers.

The site is the latest in a number of online classified sites available to students across the country. But the marketplace site differs from others in two ways: It is only accessible to faculty, students and staff of the University, and it is designed to be risk-free. Because it is closely monitored by Information Technology Central Services (ITCS), it offers a secure, comprehensive way to exchange housing information, textbooks, DVDs and dozens of other items.

The streamlined design created by ITCS was meant to make the marketplace site easy to navigate. Visitors log in with their uniqname and password, and then proceed to the main menu. Here, items and services for sale are grouped by category and date posted. The most current ads are displayed on the right side of the screen, allowing quick access to pertinent information. Viewers can queue postings that pique their interest in a “hotlist” that remains available until they log off.

Marketplace originally was part of the my.umich.edu package introduced in early 2001. The service included e-mail, classifieds, a calendar and several other applications, but eventually was discontinued. When my.umich.edu shut down, classifieds converted into a freestanding application. A separate web e-mail package was provided at http://mail.umich.edu

ITCS staff worked at making the transition to marketplace as smooth as possible. They administered a “usability walkthrough” to ensure that the campus community would find it easy to use.

Linda Place, director of Web site coordination, was one of the staff members who helped make the change. “We made sure that Marketplace did all the things it was supposed to do,” she says. “As a solo application you have to make sure it is able to stand on its own two feet.”

Marketplace is virtually unchanged from its original form under http://my.umich.edu The site’s presentation and color scheme have been updated, says Place, but the underlying functionality remains the same.

The University’s impetus for creating an online classified site stems from a desire to eliminate on-campus spam e-mail that originates and ends up at U-M. ITCS User Advocates are running an anti-spam campaign in response to complaints about solicitous e-mail, such as advertisements for summer sublets and textbooks. Through signs posted on campus kiosks and university buses with “Can the Spam” posters, ITCS hopes to spread the message that alternatives to spam exist, such as Marketplace.

Liz Sweet, ITCS user advocate, finds that the marketplace site, in conjunction with the campaign, reduces intra-university spam. “We have seen a marked decrease in the amount of ‘for sale’ spam,” she says. “The site seems to be very well-used right now. We see it taking off, with knowledge of it spreading by word of mouth.”

Ads posted on Marketplace are checked routinely to see if they comply with University computing policies. These policies, along with guidelines, are posted on the site’s home page and at http://www.umich.edu/~itua.




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