College website undergoes redesign

On Nov. 15, the College officially debuted its new website design. The redesign has been in development since the fall of 2011 and is intended to be more aesthetically pleasing and navigable than the previous site.

“Making major changes to any website is a challenge, and that challenge is made harder in an academic environment like Williams where the website serves many important constituencies,” Director of Web Strategy Carl Strolle said of the website’s new look. “We feel that the redesign working group, which was made up of folks from all over the College, looked at the problem from a lot of different angles and came up with a design that markedly improves Williams’ web presence.”

The redesign working group included faculty and staff from different offices at the College, including admissions, communications, events and libraries. Input was also sought from a diverse focus group of students, faculty and staff and from an Internet strategy group and the Information Technology Committee. An early version of the homepage was also sent out to the larger community in the daily messages, and students were encouraged to share their suggestions.

Key features on the new site include an auto-completing search, a simpler homepage and a more consistent template for “interior” pages like the admissions and alumni pages. The homepage now contains fewer links to streamline the use of the site. Currently, a number of pages remain in the previous design, but the Office of Information Technology plans to convert the remaining interior pages after communicating with individual departments.

“We’re now moving into the next phase of work on the website, which is to convert as many as possible of the College’s sites to the new design,” Angela Schaeffer, director of communications and a member of the reworking group and Internet strategy group, said. “That will take a while because this phase involves consulting with each department or office about their individual sites.”

Since the site’s launch, the College community has shared feedback with those in charge of the project via a link on the website, which invites visitors to “Tell Us What You Think.”

“We have gotten a lot of feedback,” Strolle said. “The bulk has been positive, but it has run the gamut from dislike of the new homepage to high praise for the design. We have heard from quite a few people that the major changes we made to the navigation menus made it hard for them to find pages they use a lot. We knew that simplifying the navigation to make it friendlier to prospective members of the community was a big change.”

Though the website has officially launched and is available to the public, it will most likely continue to receive improvements based on the feedback the College receives. According to Strolle, the ultimate goal is to make sure that the site fulfills its purpose as a community tool.

“The website will always be a work in progress,” Strolle said. “We don’t claim to have found the perfect solution, and welcome input on how we can improve the site. The goal is to serve the whole community well, and we seek feedback from all sides to help us achieve that.”