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Redesigned website live, but not integrated

Published: September 4, 2009
Section: Front Page


The_Hoot_9-04-09final_Page_01_Image_0005The new Brandeis undergraduate recruiting website has been accessible online since Friday Aug. 28. The website is a result of recommendations made by the Curriculum and Academic Restructuring Steering Committee (CARS) Admissions and Recruiting Subcommittee in a report last spring.

Currently, the new website stands on its own at www.brandeis.edu/areas. Eventually, the new site will be accessible from the Brandeis homepage, www.brandeis.edu, explained Ken Gornstein, assistant vice president of communications, in an e-mail message to The Hoot.

The new site is made up of 95 percent new material and was conceived and built over the course of six months with the help of several dozen faculty members, administrators, professional staff and students, Gornstein wrote.

Faculty members and professional staff in the Office of Communications wrote most of the content, and the site build-out was done under the auspices of the Department of Web Services and Library and Technology Services

“It was an all hands on deck effort,” Director of Integrated Marketing Audrey Griffin said.

Griffin said the site could have taken up to 12 months to build, but “all the moving parts came together. Everyone on every team really rallied and came together and did it.”

In their initial report, the CARS Admissions and Recruiting subcommittee, a group of nine students, administrators and professors, expressed the need for a new website that better relayed the core values of a Brandeis education.

“[The website] was doing a poor job of communicating who we are, what we do, and why students should come here,” the report said.

The last web redesign was in early 2008 and involved a complete makeover of Brandeis web presence to make the website more user friendly, and to allow faculty and staff to keep with university branding standards and more easily update content, explained Gorstein.

The committee identified three elements, “Community,” “Opportunity,” and “Social Justice” as well as eight additional themes they felt “organize and highlight the undergraduate curriculum, while emphasizing our strengths.”

“We needed to get these themes accessible for the 16 and 17 year olds that will be looking at these sites” said Griffin of the theme’s integration with the new site. “We had an existing template in the new content management system that lent itself extremely well to showcasing the three values.”

The CARS report also identified eight themes, or areas of study, that would represent a new aspect of recruitment efforts. The themes, “Physical and Computational Sciences,” “A Global University,” “Health and Society,” “The Humanities: Reason and Imagination,” “Jewish Studies,” “Justice and Public Life,” “Visual and Performing Arts,” and “Preparation for Professional Life,” were all given their own page on the new site. Each page features a section for each of the elements and profiles the staff, students, and alumni who were or are involved in the departments and programs that fall under each theme.

“The architecture and content of the site was jointly decided by a committee comprising members from the Department of Web Services, undergraduate admissions, and the CARS Subcommittee on Admissions and Recruiting” said Gornstein.

Dean Jaffe sent out a series of e-mails over the summer to keep faculty informed and involved. “A total of three e-mails went out as each site was finished. The faculty [were] able to view and react and post comments to a discussion board,” said Griffin.

This remodel was conducted in two phases. The first defined the areas of study, listing the majors and minors and giving examples of jobs held by Brandeis graduates of a given program or major.

Phase two focused on integrating the marketing themes created by CARS into the eight areas of study. The page is the first of its kind with regards to the Brandeis web presence explained Griffin. The top menu bar of the page is not found in any other Brandeis page layout. “You can get to each site [for the themes] by clicking,” explained Griffin. Most of the Brandeis site use side bar navigation and it is not as easy to jump between different sites.

Additionally, the color scheme introduced on the new site, each theme having its own color, has been integrated into other admissions and recruiting material. Griffin explained that the new viewbook, the booklet given to high school students containing pictures and fast facts, reflects the new themes and the look of the new website.

The ultimate goal is to revitalize the Brandeis homepage. According to Griffin, the picture on the homepage of three students walking through a fall-hued campus will be replaced with a new movie, which will link to the new site. But for the time being, they will take measures to make the new site more visible from the Brandeis home page and other areas of the Brandeis site. Places that “make sense from a strategic standpoint,” said Gornstein.