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Beyond the News

Mobile commencement site helps Yale handle train crash

University Business, July 2013
On the left is Yale's commencement website. On the right is the mobile version created by Judson Mobile.

When a train derailment on the eve of Yale’s graduation weekend cut off rail service to New Haven, Conn., a mobile website specially designed for commencement gave visitors real-time travel information.

The site had been created to give commencement guests access to event schedules, interactive maps, parking information, and directions via their smartphones. Commencement speeches by New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker (’97) and Yale President Richard Levin also were streamed live on the site.

“We have more than 20,000 graduating students and their guests on campus, so it was great this year to have a very user-friendly, information-rich mobile web site,” says Michael Morand, Yale’s deputy chief communications officer. “It was an additional benefit to have real-time updates to traffic, given the issues that the railroads faced that weekend.”

The site, created by Judson Mobile, also had an embedded “Yale news” Twitter feed, and a section designed to help people with disabilities navigate the urban campus.

A mobile website was a much better choice for Yale than an app would have been, says Bruce Judson, president of Judson Mobile. “Mobile websites are ideal for high information services, where not just content changes but entire buckets of communication may change,” Judson says, adding that those changes can be made instantly.

Shortly after the train derailed on Friday, May 17, Yale put an alert on its desktop website and Judson says his team quickly added real-time travel information to the mobile site, which was updated throughout commencement weekend. This gave visitors time to make alternate travel plans for Booker’s “Class Day” speech on Sunday, and for the graduation ceremonies, all of which took place on Monday.

University officials were “prescient in seeing value in real-time capability,” Judson says. Judson estimates that about 3,150 people got travel information from the mobile site, which served 32,035 pages during commencement weekend. Visitors spent an average of two minutes on the site.