Second website in 3 months receives praise

by Ithan Peltan | 10/23/00 5:00am

For the second time in just a few months, the Dartmouth webpage has undergone a major renovation introducing new features and a new look to the school's face on the Internet.

Some of the most noticeable features of the site launched last Wednesday include the return of the large feature photo, a new page of links devoted to students and -- in a departure from past page designs -- a gray-green background.

Many innovations introduced in the website's July revision -- which, when it happened, was the first in more than three years -- were kept as part of the newest design, including the "Happenings," "Events" and "Web Spotlight" aspects.

"We spent a lot of time trying to think about what students would want on this page," site designer Sarah Horton said. "There was negative feedback about the [last] redesign and people wanted to do it right."

Student focus groups and general feedback after the summer redesign led to many of the changes that appeared with the release of last week's site, she said.

Most students that talked with The Dartmouth yesterday agreed that the website posted last week was an improvement over its immediate predecessor, although some said they still missed the homepage that was replaced over the summer.

Most of all, students said that they were happy to see photographs reinstated as a major feature on the site. "Just the words don't show that we're any different from any other school," Sara Baron '03 said.

"This is definitely a big improvement from the last one," Julie Matteini '03 agreed. "It was very hard to find anything that you were looking for.

Student opinion was mixed on the new innovation of a colored background as opposed to the traditional white, with students references characterizing it as anything from "sophisticated" to "puke green."

Horton said the color originated because of the difficulty of using "Dartmouth Green" as the page's background because of the richness of its color.

"I played around with a green that would say Dartmouth but would not scream Dartmouth," Horton said. "I was looking to be a little more subtle."

After the College stuck with a single, unchanged website design for a period of several years, some are surprised to see another major revision so soon.

"I was just surprised that they changed it twice in such a short period of time," Matt DeLellis '02 said, adding that he had no opinion of the site one way or the other.

Change may be the trend of the future, however, as Dartmouth's webmaster committee looks to have the homepage reflect the changing face of the College and needs of its community.

"The website is a work in progress, and it will continue to be a work in progress," Director of Public Affairs and webmaster committee member Laurel Stavis said. "We're looking to put up on the web a window into Dartmouth."

The challenge, Stavis said, is to have a website that is useful to everyone who would potentially make use of it, balancing news, access to information and aesthetics.

Horton -- who designed the homepage that was replaced in July after more than three years -- noted that the changes that have appeared with the two most recent pages are more than skin deep.

Before July, the pages available by clicking links on the main homepage were not related in design to the central page. Now, however, the same theme is used on the second level pages as well.

"By having consistency ... it just makes it easier for the user to navigate around and not get lost," she said.

Ease of navigation was also a consideration in the way the links pages were laid out, Horton said. She and other designers worked to organize links in a way that would make them easy to find and not "buried in an administratively logical way."

The same idea also prompted the creation of the "Quick Links" pull down menu, offering easy access to such things as course listings, WebBlitz and the online campus map.

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