A page of our own
Art majors, rejoice: the Bowdoin College webpage, www.bowdoin.edu, looks good these days. After a two-year redesign process, the Information Technology Committee has come up with a site that on the surface bears little graphic resemblance to the old one; the file structure, too, has been shaken up and re-organized. The effort was clearly needed; version 1.0 had been accumulated by patchwork over several years and under several overseers, and consistency of design suffered.
Changes have been occurring behind the scenes as well. CIS has consolidated the number of servers Bowdoin uses to host its web pages and other network content. Last year's sizeable gift from Stan Druckenmiller earmarked solely for technology expenditures has been put to use.
The new webpage looks especially good from the standpoint of the Admissions Office. The IT Committee paid close attention to the movements of prospective students through old and new versions of the site, going so far as to enlist the advice of "cognitive psychologists, researchers in learning, [and] information architects [who have spent] over two decades studying human interactions with computers." The real studying, though, has been in terms of how prospective students have been interacting with computers, and the question was, 'how can we get high school seniors to stick to our page when they stumble across it?' The site's front page, with its swaths of randomly selected solid colors and uncaptioned photos of students in action, doesn't look like an Abercrombie and Fitch storefront by accident.
All this applied marketing, though, doesn't mean much to us on campus, who were yokel enough to have been seduced by the old, boring webpage. Despite its design flaws, the old website was familiar to most, at least parts of it. We had the dining hall menus bookmarked, and knew how to find the student directory, and the sports schedules- resources irrelevant to future students but very useful to current ones. The new design has displaced familiar online landmarks, and produced some grumbling that the new 'look and feel' of the site is a step backwards.
What is needed is a step sideways- the construction of a student portal that collects the parts of Bowdoin's webpage most useful to those of us on campus in one spot. The concept is not new- members of CIS and the IT Committee have mentioned it several times during the redesign process, and a strange online creature, www.goubears.com, does exist. That site, though, seems to be a one-size-fits-all site, casually sprinkled with Bowdoin-related information. The 'Pubs and Clubs' page isn't aware of Joshua's or Sea Dog, but directs Bowdoin pubbers to the Black Diamond Tavern in Augusta and the Elks Lodge on Park Row.
It's tme for the promised 'offical' student portal to materialize, now that Bowdoin's main webpage is so well targeted at prospective students. There's no point in making one page serve both audiences. Let's put those cognitive psychologists back to work.