Students making their way to Webmail and Blackboard on Tuesday, November 29 were greeted by a new page in place of the Student Gateway—the Orbit. This new site is a much-needed step in the right direction—unfortunately, many other components of the College's website continue to leave something to be desired.
A college website should make it easy to find practical information, but Bowdoin's often makes it difficult to find even the most superficial facts. Try typing "Buck" in the site's search engine to find the fitness center's hours and you will find yourself wading through articles on the building's sustainable design and events it has hosted. If you're looking for late-night sustenance and search "pub" in the hope of finding a phone number or menu, you will also be out of luck. If you search for "art," the visual arts department does not appear until the fifth page of results.
Another crucial function of Bowdoin's website is to attract potential applicants, and often the first interaction that high school students have with Bowdoin is through the College's website. Yet, a number of crucial design flaws prevent the page from adequately communicating Bowdoin's greatest strengths. For instance, The Washington Post recently named Bowdoin one of the top 12 schools for financial aid, but on the admissions page, financial aid information is not immediately apparent like it is on the sites of many of our peer schools. Many of the most perfunctory facts, like the size of the student body are not accessible, and prospective students must search elsewhere on the site to learn about what sets Bowdoin apart.
In its current state, the admissions webpage is little more than a mirror that redirects applicants to pages intended for current students. While it does offer some important practical information like deadlines, it advertises the College's central "academics" and "life" offerings by linking to multi-purpose pages that combine promotional material for prospective students with resources for current students. Integrating these separate focuses in one place dilutes the effective communication of both, leaving the visitor lost in an inescapable web of crossover material. A quick look at Williams' admissions page illustrates how far Bowdoin's has to go.
It's good to hear from Rob Kerr, a vice president of communications, that the admissions website is currently being redesigned, and that a new version is slated to be launched in late-winter. We hope that the new page will exhibit all of Bowdoin's strengths clearly and attractively, and draw a line between the different audiences the site is meant to target. According to Kerr, IT also has begun using the Google KeyMatch service to promote links that are relevant to students, but hidden by a search algorithm that does not understand the way they actually speak. We encourage the expansion of this service in conjunction with increased input from students.
We recognize that it would be difficult for any department of IT's size to keep up with the breakneck speed of Internet design, but that still is no excuse for falling behind. Bowdoin's website can and should be as good as the college that it represents, and the administration must appropriate IT all the resources it needs to achieve this. So much of the College has received a facelift in the past four years, from the Buck Center to Watson Arena to the paper viewbook—now it is the website's turn.
The editorial represents the majority view of the Bowdoin Orient's editorial board, which is comprised of Nick Daniels, Carlo Davis, Sam Frizell, Linda Kinstler, and Zoë Lescaze.