'We've taken the gAL.co.za brand to its next level, in terms of accessibility and design,' says gAL managing director Andy Hadfield, 'and we've gone live with the new look just as students around the country are going back to varsity.'
Since the site's launch in December 1999, gAL.co.za has expanded its student features to include free email and a searchable online bursary database, as well as a comprehensive services section where users can advertise or look for jobs, accommodation, even transport. gAL.co.za also hosts an online academic bookstore (at www.galbooks.co.za
), with on-campus support at three locations -- and free text books for registered lecturers. In 2002, the gAL group began offering its users affordable entry-level Internet access packages.
The gAL group has one of the largest student communities on the SA web, and has expanded its regional presence, with the launch of dedicated subsections for Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban and the Eastern Cape. These subsections are all managed by students from those areas.
The new-look site, powered by Prefix Technologies, offers users an easier navigation system that 'will enable even more students to take part in the online community and utilise the gAL.co.za services,' explains Andy. 'We've expanded the site and our services so much over the past three years,' he says, 'that we decided it was time to give our brand a new look. We've also completely reworked the site's structure and programming, so it's simpler to use and safer... because of the controversial nature of much of our content, we've been the target of hacking campaigns in the past. We're not planning on toning down our message, so we've had to respond by creating a more secure environment.'
The new-look gAL.co.za still boasts the signature tongue-in-cheek sections that have made headline news around the world -- like the politically contentious gAL games, and gAL's funnybits -- as well as feature articles written by and for South Africa's student community.
'Our site has always been by-the-students, for-the-students,' says Andy, 'and gAL is a platform and a forum for South African youth to talk about whats really going on, on their campuses and in their country. The site's new look reflects that. We're not interested in creating a sellout corporate image... that's not who we are, and that's not who our users are. Since we launched, tens of local groups have attempted to target the student market, but, online, we're still the biggest presence, even though we're the smallest team.'