Dartmouth launches new website

by Heather Szilagyi | 11/16/12 12:30pm

The new photograph-heavy website features a simpler design and fewer links to secondary web pages on the homepage.Sarah Memmi, interim director of strategic projects and initiatives, said that the update that launched today is the first phase in a series of gradual improvements the project team plans on implementing.

Friday's launch is a solely visual update, and the website has the same information and organizational structure as the previous webste, she said. In addition to the homepage, about 80 pages additional pages of the website launched with a new design. Annie Fagan '15 said that the College's website is more important to prospective students, and current students do not need to access it very often.

"It's so modern I don't know what to do with it," she said. "The old website did look very antiquated, but I don't think it really matters what students think."

Some students expressed disappointment that the large photo at the top of the old homepage, which featured students and different locations on campus, has been removed.

"I'm happy I got on the banner before they changed it," Steve Smith '13 said.

Iris Yu '14 also said that students considered the banner an important feature of the old website.

"I miss [the banner] at the top because people are really proud when they're on it," she said.

Most students, who enjoyed the clean and simplified look, said they liked new design.

Pallavi Saboo '16 said that the new website is eye-catching and designed in a more appealing way, while Quyen Hoang '16 said the white background is more professional.

Most students said that their main concern is how easy the website is to navigate and how accessible the information is.

"As long as they don't change where everything is, I don't mind," Smith said.

A much more substantial redesign involving improved organization and richer content will be part of the second phase of the redesign, set to launch in spring 2013, Memmi said. The second phase will also involve the launch of new web pages for four academic department.

The migration of the rest of the microsites and approximately 100,000 pages that comprise the Dartmouth website will also begin in the spring, according to a College press release.

Features like the online events calendar, first built in 1997, and the campus map will also be updated to be more accurate and functional, Memmi said.

Other technology and utility improvements in the second phase will include a design that will be compatible with multiple mobile devices, she said.

The third phase, set to begin in spring 2013, will involve working with departments, programs and centers to migrate them to the new design, Memmi said.

The new design aims to correct the disjointedness of various components of the old website, Digital Pulp Creative Director Gene Lewis previously said in an interview. The new website aims to convey that Dartmouth is a unique community and more than just a collection of schools, according to Lewis.

Memmi said that the decision to redesign and update the website was an initiative that began taking shape last winter and officially began in May.

"The visual design was starting to show its age," she said. "The last redesign was in 2006. We're always aware that our navigation on the website could be improved as could our storytelling."

The technology update that took place along with the visual redesign was also a huge undertaking and came together quickly, Director of Web Services Susan Lee, who managed the project, said.

All 2,100 sites that comprise the Dartmouth database will not be redesigned individually, but rather Digital Pulp will create a template that all of the sites can use to enhance continuity, according to Lewis.

A large focus of the redesign is on providing easy accessibility to resources for prospective students and their families, Lewis said in May.

The new homepage is more closely aligned with the websites of Dartmouth's peer institutions, most of which feature large photos and a relatively simple design.

Saboo is a member of The Dartmouth Staff.