OIT, Communications Office make technical changes to website; more to follow soon

Last Wednesday, the campus saw changes implemented on the College’s homepage, www.williams.edu. While a redesigning of the whole website will shortly be underway, a few major changes took place last week: The homepage and other College sites moved to a new content management system called WordPress, and the sites were also shifted to a different server.

Angela Schaeffer, director of communications, said she believes the changes “grew out of discussions of the Internet strategy group – a group of faculty and staff, including folks from [the Office of Information Technology] and other senior staff.”

Schaeffer added that these small changes to the homepage were planned to occur several months ago. She said that the Office of Communications’ role in making these technical changes was small.
“I believe the changes were discussed as a kind of ‘let’s go ahead and take care of these small things that we think will help improve the look and organization of the homepage,’” Schaeffer said. “This is not a redesign of the homepage.”

According to the web operations team, the changes were made in order to keep the website up-to-date and to ensure that better web support and training will be possible in the future.
Visible changes include a list of “Of Note” items occupying space in the middle of the homepage, features stories with images in an interactive slider bar placed prominently front and center, a column on the left side of the site for “I am Williams” portraits and a column on the right side for a list of upcoming events.

Criticism of these changes has been seen on WSO. Schaeffer commented on the criticism: “I hope that folks understand that [these current changes are] not a redesign and that [Director of Web Operations Scott Pittinksy’s] team and our office are going to work very closely together over the next several months to explore a really comprehensive redesign of the website, and that is a process that is going to be inclusive,” she said.

She added, “that’s how things happen here at Williams – we work with all of the constituencies and get a lot of input, and for a project like this, we really need input from faculty, students, alumni and staff.”
The web operations team is currently working on two major fronts for the redesign process. The first is moving all the College websites to WordPress, and the second is further developing the College’s WordPress template.

These major changes will yield a new overall design for the website and a more accessible navigation system, according to the team.

Schaeffer said that she is looking forward to the redesign process. “I think it’s going to be fun, informative and interesting,” she said. “Part of the process is going to be assessing what we think is wrong [with the current website], but I think everybody pretty universally recognizes that there is an opportunity to do a lot more.”

As of now, there is no timetable for these further changes. The Internet strategy group is set to meet later this month.

“That’s where we’ll start the conversation and develop a process for what is going to happen,” Schaeffer said. “But it’s certainly a several month process, if not more.”