Don't get upset if your post doesn't appear right away...I will be putting them through in order of submission one by one so an answer will always appear right after the question it addresses.
The committee is aware that the design White Whale presented 2 weeks ago is not a finished product, but a launching point. The committee chairs have been reading all the comments with great interest.
I apologize for the vague response, but it was a fairly vague question. Did you have anything specific in mind?
Well if nobody has any questions right now, I can elaborate further on Dan's question and refer specifically to a couple of the most common concerns.
First up, the omission of the word "College." This seems to have made more people upset than anything else, but it was not a decision made by LIS and it is not something we have control over. The current website has not had it for a couple years now.
Middlebury prides itself on diversity. This isn't limited though to ethnic diversity. The "equalizer" provides the opportunity for news/stories from all over the site to be featured on the home page. For someone visiting the site, it helps demonstrate the vast number of opportunities available at Middlebury.
I think it is important to remember that the equalizer is only a design for the home page. Everything from the current site will still be accessed in the same number of clicks. In fact, we are making every effort possible (including an improved search function) to make it even easier to find the specific piece of information you are looking for.
How does the current site better reflect the "spirit of Middlebury" than the proposed design?
It is also tricky, Dan, because each person that is a part of the Middlebury community likely has a different idea of what the "spirit of Middlebury" is. It is not feasible to think the new site will accurately reflect everyone's beliefs of what it should be, but we are doing our best to do just that. Every comment we receive is actively discussed by the people involved in the project.
The current site falls into the stereotypical mold of a college website. Pictures of smiling students are, in my opinion, quite cliche. As part of the new project, we are trying to break this mold and make the page more interactive/inviting of a visitor. With the new design, not only will more than 3 pictures be instantly available, but they will also have descriptions with them. It won't be "oh there is a girl who dances," it could be "Wow this girl choreographed a dance for her senior work that was inspired by the loss of a loved one" (a true story).
It will also be possible for us to have stories/pictures open upon page loading, so the effect you enjoy can still be achieved while simultaneously expanding in the new direction.
Also, it is not the lines that are supposed to represent a Midd experience, but what they contain. This lines up with the goal of making the site more engaging for a visitor. In my opinion, a prospective student for example would more be likely attracted to Middlebury by the new design than turned off by it.
The one thing I hate about college websites is that exact cliche -- let's get a few "diverse" kids on the homepage. I think the waveform design gets at the Middlebury experience by showing actual diversity of all kinds instead of just trying to symbolize what we want to be. Sure, there'll always be some tinkering by Communications, but students will have a real chance to be represented on the homepage instead of the hand-selected, perfect stories that appear there (not the narrative journalism ones) now.
As a recent graduate (Class of '09) and current LIS employee, I can honestly say that there are elements of the new design that I both like and dislike. Every criticism is being considered, some more than others.
For example, many faculty/staff and current students have complained about the accessibility of Webmail and Banner. For anyone with a campus internet connection, "go" browsing eliminates the need altogether to ever visit the home page. And for when off campus on a personal computer, they can be set as browser homepages.
@Bill For the "administration" this is new territory. I've pushed all the leaders of this project from the start to consider an open process instead of the way the Leaf Logo went down two years ago. And I would argue that we're doing an OK job being transparent and open but the school is new to this process so that's why I think it comes off as "dig in and defend" a bit.
Just as we can't please every member of the Middlebury community, we know we can't have a design that will attract every prospective student. Many involved, though, believe breaking out of the standard mold will turn out as more of a positive than a negative.
@Dan How else can we create a portal to the campus? I've been pushing for a new online campus tour function but I'm not sure the status of that project.
Thank you S J, I'll clarify...same or fewer.
@SJ Ratcliff Right on, man!
In most cases, I would assume fewer.
Also S J, as I briefly mentioned before, from on campus a department can be reached without first going to the homepage. The math department, for example, can be reached by "go/math" and the dining menus by "go/dining". If you are off campus, the improved search function would still make it quicker to find a department's home page than on the current site.
I think that the "go" browsing feature is also a reason that people have the impression that the new design is aimed at prospective students and not the rest of the Middlebury community because we don't expect current students or faculty/staff to visit the home page very often unless they choose to.
Also, like in any "marketing" campaign, adds are geared at potential clients, not people who have already bought in. I am not implying that we are deliberately neglecting some users because we aren't, but I think it would be reasonable to assume that the needs of prospective students are being considered more important (pure speculation, I have not had that discussion with anyone yet).
That is a good point S J and I will bring it up.
(Again, pure speculation) If I had to guess from the current layout and the typical goals of a liberal arts education, Middlebury gears toward an audience of prospective students interested in a wide range of disciplines, so the current setup forces a visitor to see more about academics in general before being exposed to the many departments.
However, I agree with you that it should take fewer than 4 clicks.
@Ben I disagree. I've been pushing this design to address the internal needs, but I think the Web Makeover committee has not necessarily been advertising these changes. There isn't a big (or small) design firm implementing better internal tools -- it's just LIS staff. That's what most folks don't get -- we hired White Whale for the design but the majority of this project is being done internally and a lot of it is focused on internal user experience.
@Dan Photos of the campus is on our discussion list. Point taken.
I am unsure, Dan, whether or not you have watched the video of White Whale's presentation, but one thing that Jason expresses is a desire to not clutter the page. The rest of the site will absolutely contain beautiful campus pictures, and many stories will probably contain pictures. I think we are relying on (perhaps sillily) students not being turned off by the home page and instead wanting to explore more, and then being exposed to the pictures.
That's a good point, Ryan. White Whale is only working on design, while Middlebury staff is doing the heavy lifting.
Again, most of what I am saying is opinion and speculation. Ryan has been more involved in the design than I have. While I have been involved with commite chairs in discussing the design, it is only fair to point out that most of my work has been geared toward content editors rather than to site visitors.
I should go too. Thanks for hosting us, Ben! All should feel free to keep those comments coming. I know I read every single one trying to get a better feel for how students, in particular, will get their say in a new website. Best, Ryan.