Anyone who wants anything has a choice: build or buy. Do it yourself, or have someone do it for you. In the field of web development, the choice can be particularly difficult. This week, the College and the Orient are launching new websites. Independently, we have both chosen to build.
We rebuilt our site from scratch for the first time since 2004 in hopes that it will allow us to produce a modern, digital-first news product. The site has been in development for a year, and is very much a work in progress. But it does what we want it to do cleanly, and is free of features for which readers have no use.
Its design reflects our values. To promote integrity, a “report an error” button now accompanies each article. We encourage readers to use it to flag factual errors, errors of omission, misquotations, and ethical concerns. To help drive two-way conversation, readers can also submit tips, anonymously or not. The site embraces both the value and challenges of student-generated content on a student-generated platform. Our digital team is expanding; we look forward to serving as a better outlet for programming talent on campus, as we always have for writing, photography, and design.
We are less confident that Bowdoin is doing the right thing by choosing to build rather than to outsource. We appreciate that, like ours, the College’s site is a work in progress. But we question what road it is going down, and how it intends to get where it’s going. The new front page lacks substance. The previous site, if old-fashioned, at least provided a dynamic snapshot of campus life and the surrounding community. The site goes out of its way to hide the most lively and useful content in a hard-to-find footer.
The Orient is a 142-year-old amateur experiment; we value self-made process as much as product. The College is one of the top liberal arts institutions in the world and its website should not be a work in progress.
When the time came to design a new fitness center worthy of Bowdoin’s reputation, the College hired esteemed architecture firm Cambridge Seven Associates. Now that the time has come to redesign the face of our online identity, viewed 1.4 million times a year, why has the full burden of that task fallen on the College’s five-person Interactive Media Group?
The website is a mission-critical product upon which an increasing amount of school operations depend. Compared to sites like bates.edu or middlebury.edu, Bowdoin’s does not do justice to the world-class education it offers.
But the College does not just need to improve the site; it needs to improve the way it improves the site. The redesigned Bowdoin.edu is not at home in this land or this age.
- The editorial represents the majority view of the Bowdoin Orient’s editorial board, which is comprised of Claire Aasen, Erica Berry, Linda Kinstler, Zohran Kwame Mamdani, Eliza Novick-Smith and Toph Tucker.