On April 12, Williams Students Online (WSO) will launch a new version of its current website. The event will mark the first redesign of the website since 2008, when a similar group of WSO students made a variety of changes to the original page.
“We decided to do something new because WSO as a group hasn’t been doing anything for a long time,” Lucky Zhang ’14, president of WSO, said. “We are supposed to help students on campus and we haven’t been doing that.” The group, consisting of WSO student members and advised by Duane Bailey, professor of computer science, started working on the project over Winter Study.
The major changes to the new website include a cleaner layout and the addition of DormTrak, among other minor alterations. In addition, the website will be more compatible with iPhones, iPads and tablets.
The DormTrak feature will allow students to rate the College’s residential housing by factors such as noise levels; room temperature; lighting; and number of bathrooms, showers and outlets for other students to access. Zhang explained that some of the ratings will be factual and others will be more opinion-oriented, and will include yes-or-no questions, rating questions and short comments. “The questions will target more at the dorm itself, rather than the people … because the people who live in a dorm will change every year,” Zhang said.
“We tried to make the design as similar to the original as possible,” Cole Townsend ’15, head designer for WSO, said. “Stylistically and aesthetically it’s really different, but the layout is pretty intuitive, so people don’t get lost.”
Following the April launch, WSO plans to add new features throughout the term and into next year including an A Cappella Collection, posting student group a cappella recordings; GrubTrak; TrekTrak, a FacTrak for study abroad programs and a course planner that will generate a schedule based on an input of classes. The plans also include an improved Facebook search feature and FacTrak.
With the help of College Council (CC) and the Faculty Steering Committee, WSO hopes to introduce the new FacTrak, a section of the website that allows students to post evaluative comments about professors, by the end of the semester. “We are trying to improve the faculty’s impression of Factrak because they are a little uneasy about it, “ Townsend said. Zhang explained that the majority of the posts on FacTrak are either extremely positive or extremely negative.
On the new website, professor reviews will be deleted after five years, with the hope that a professor has the chance of overcoming poor reviews that he or she may have received during his or her initial years at the College. “It levels the playing field a bit,” Townsend said. At the end of this semester, WSO, in conjunction with CC and the Student Advisory Committee, will send out a revised Factrak survey. Whereas in the past the survey only provided a box for comments, the new survey will additionally have yes-or-no questions and rating questions in an effort to capture a wider array of student opinions about professors.