Yesterday morning, the College launched the redesigned version of Bowdoin.edu, the first overhaul of the site in nine years. The homepage now has a completely different appearance, featuring “The Offer of the College” superimposed over the image of a tree on the Quad. Associate Vice President of Interactive Marketing Robert Kerr has been working to improve the interface and user-friendliness of the site, which was developed internally.
“The home page of the website has been the same for nine years,” said Kerr. “In that time there has been… a revolution in how people use websites. People expect the information to be a lot more flexible than it used to be, and the new homepage is a step in the direction of satisfying those needs.”
Currently, the Bowdoin website gets about 1.4 million views per year, and while Kerr does not believe that the redesign will garner much more attention for the website, he hopes that people visiting it will be able to more easily learn about Bowdoin.
“It’s really about people that don’t know anything about the College. The majority of people who come into the website are coming to learn something about the College,” said Kerr. “What the homepage is trying to do is shift the focus from people who are at the College…to better telling the story to people that don’t know anything about the college.”
Kerr, along with two members from Bowdoin’s Interactive Marketing department, David Francis and Kevin Travers, has been working on the project since June, and while they were the driving forces behind the redesign, Kerr stresses the role of students in making the website successful.
“What my group does is we kind of think about the whole web and think about how we can move it forward and understand how people are using it, what people want,” said Kerr. “The website is an interesting thing because it’s owned by the community, it’s managed by the community, it’s written on by the community, it’s used by the community. But it also needs to have a singular voice so that we’re explaining the College well.”
Students have started noticing the changes in the website and some have commended its new interface and navigability.
“The layout is fresh,” said Stanford Spurlock ’14, “and it’s hella easy to navigate.”
Yet others have expressed their concerns with the redesign, citing problems with the new layout.
“I think it looks pretty but I work in one of the departments and professors felt like they couldn’t find anything,” said Louisa Diaz ’13. “I think it’s interesting that they’re gearing it towards prospective students as opposed to the current student body.”
Alumni have also weighed in on the redesign.
“I love it,” said William Donahoe ’08, who now does web design for a communications agency he co-founded. “I’m glad that they simplified it,” he said, while also noting some layout issues and the fact that the redesign hasn’t yet reached further than the front page.
When Donahoe was applying to Bowdoin, he remembers being impressed by the website.
“It’s one of the intangibles I used to determine where I wanted to go,” said Donahoe, adding that he remembers thinking, “This is a school that appreciates good design.”
Mark Hendrickson ’07—who co-founded the social events startup Plancast, and is now the Product Lead for the habit-tracking app Lift—only had a chance to look at the site on his iPhone.
“There’s not a lot to it, but it doesn’t look very good,” he said. “Effectively, students will be looking at it as a reflection of themselves.”
Hendrickson says the website is “the main way in which people start their [college] search.
“It’s a sign of quality,” he added.
Kerr hopes that the redesign, which includes new features such as smartphone capability and content from the Bowdoin Daily Sun will prove successful. However, he is always looking for ways to improve.
“We’re going to continue to evolve and when you launch something new, that’s when work starts,” said Kerr. “Students in a lot of ways need to be driving it, because you guys are the freshest eyes on everything. The more ideas we can get from students the better.”