Communications and ITS offered a sneak peek of the College’s new website design at meetings this past Tuesday. There were two chances to attend, at 3:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m., and the meetings were open to the entire campus community. Associate Director of Communications Stacey Kutish announced in a public email that community feedback “will help inform some important decisions as we finalize the design and content structure” of the site. Communications plans to launch the new layout later this semester.
According to Kutish, the afternoon meeting was attended by a standing-room only crowd. “The feedback we got was constructive and helpful,” she wrote in an email after the session. “We are already excited about working with some of the ideas presented by the group.”
At the evening meeting — identical in structure to the earlier meeting — members of Communications and ITS repeatedly expressed their desire to openly communicate with community members about the changes taking place and any ideas for improvement. Nancy Nicely, Secretary of the College and Vice President for Communications, stated that she would like for the new site to be “as honest as possible” in its presentation of the College. Stacey Kutish said that Communications was actively “looking for better ways to convey the spirit and the essence” of the College.
These meetings were just two in a string of website-related focus groups that have taken place over the past year. The College hired mStoner, a Chicago-based company specializing in academic web design, to help revamp the site. The company has conducted extensive research and held focus groups with different types of users, including prospective students, current students, and faculty. One issue that seems particularly problematic for users of the current College website (launched in 2006) is a “lack of sense of space,” said College Web Designer Steven Lin.
Noah Weinthal ’15 agreed that lack of sense of space was frustrating for him as a prospective student, saying that he “actually gave up on the site a little bit.” He expressed that he was particularly off-put by “not having the story of what an average Swattie’s day is — that was something I felt like I could get from [other schools]. I could imagine myself being a student [there]… and on Swarthmore’s website, that content wasn’t really available.” Another problem Weinthal cited was lack of readily accessible large format images of dorms on campus.
Steve Lin assured audience members that the new design is “much more visual and impactful.” Large images and integrated video will top the homepage and main subsections, and the site is intended to be much easier to navigate: there will be consistent header and footer throughout, as well as improved formatting for mobile devices and quick links to Swarthmore’s social media pages.
Phase one of the redesign will launch the new homepage and other main subsites, including dashboards for parents and visitors, and phase two will migrate the academic departments into the new design. There are currently no major renovations planned for the campus community dashboard, which serves students and faculty is updated independently by members of ITS.