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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Mixed reaction to new Brandeis web site

Published: January 14, 2005
Section: News

A new design for the official Brandeis website was launched on Dec. 17, 2004. The new layout, by Design Director Charles Dunham and student employee Daniel Silverman '05, was made in conjunction with a committee established by Senior Vice-President of Communications Lorna Miles Whalen.

Wed been considering doing a redesign for some time simply because the previous design had been in service for quite a while, said David Wisniewski, Director of Web Services in the Office of Communications and the site redesign committee lead. When Lorna Miles Whalen started in her new position, the topic of a redesign was high on her agenda and the committee was formed very soon after her arrival. A series of student focus groups late last spring, coordinated by the Student Union, and the myBrandeis survey tool and message boards, were used to gather student feedback with respect to the early stages of the design process.

The most prominent change is the new space on the front page dedicated to news and events, with images, headlines and summaries. More space has also been devoted to campus events and profiles, and a continuously changing slideshow was added. The slideshow is another way the office of Communications intends to tell Brandeis story, said Wisniewski. The slides link to articles about professors or events, forming what Wisniewski calls a narrative intended to take the reader deep within the Brandeis website, delivering the visitor to a place that they might not have visited on their own.

Currently, the slideshow features articles on Brandeis professors Javier Urcid (ANTH), Bernadette Brooten (NEJS, WMNS), Eric Chasalow (MUS) and Stanley Deser (PHYS), to name a few, and features pieces on The Castle, the Shapiro Campus Center, and campus dining options.

In addition, a prime consideration in this redesign was the need to keep the page up to date with timely news covering a variety of topics. The site has been built so that content posting is not limited to the technical few of coders and developers, said Wisniewski. Weve taken care to implement tools that allow News and Communications staff direct access to post articles, events and announcements to the front page.

Student opinion on the new site has been mixed. Some have responded to the new design with overwhelming approval, while others have been harshly critical. Graduate student Daniel Becker described the website as elegant in its minimalism definitely a huge improvement over the old design, and Associate Dean for Undergraduate Academic Affairs Michelle Rosenthal found the page easier to navigate, more accessible, friendlier a better presentation overall. Student Jennifer Goldberg 05, however, found the new layout corporate and schmaltzy, and Sofya Dayn 08, thought it was a bit too much, reminding her of a tabloid front page, trying to squeeze in all the news headlines. Several students complained that the site had a 80s feel.

Other students expressed dissatisfaction with what they saw as inconsistent design within pages at Brandeis. Barry Yanowitz 06 counted at least four completely different styles throughout the new siteits startlingly disjointed, and Miles Ketchum 08 suggested they make sub-site design more cohesive in terms of style.

Many of the technical issues brought up by students on the message boards were quickly addressed, and some further recommendations have been implemented by the administrators. Early errors with links were fixed, and changes to front-page access to the directory and search were implemented on student feedback. Font-size inconsistencies have been addressed, and Silverman has added handicapped accessibility features to the website. We continue to refine and tweak the site each week as we receive feedback;

we do appreciate comments and incorporate them when we can, said Wisniewski.