White Whale Unveils Middlebury Web site Design

On Thursday, July 23rd, at 1pm (10am PST), White Whale will be presenting a new design for the Middlebury website. People at can participate in the unveiling in two ways.

Join us in McCullough Social Space, where we will show the unveiling.

–or–

Log into the Elluminate session using the instructions here:
Web Access for Design Unveiling

Please join us as we take a look at the first Middlebury design in the Web makeover process.



5 Responses to “White Whale Unveils Middlebury Web site Design”

  1. I liked much of what I saw this afternoon at the “unveiling”. Some of the changes seemed to be more smoke and mirrors changes than fundamental changes in the way the webpage functions – but change is good and I like the fact that we’re looking for a new look.

    BUT (I am a biologist so you must take my comments with a grain of salt), one of the features that makes Middlebury unique and beautiful is the landscape: the juxtaposition of mountains and sky and pastures and forest and how the campus fits into this landscape and is situated to really appreciate this landscape. This feature will be, not lost, but hidden in the new design – we’ll see landscapes on the inner pages, but on the main page we’ll see colorful vertical lines. This aspect of the new design seems too urban for this lovely rural place. Again, remember that nature is my life and job and love – I’ll miss seeing it on the main website.

    It’s also not clear to me how developing and maintaining the “MiddLabs” section will not be more work for faculty and staff: who will write these stories? who will submit the photos? And, with over 2,200 students and over 200 faculty and I don’t know how many staff, each with their own stories and connections and experiences (even just at Middlebury, not including their lives before coming here) who will determine which stories are included in these MiddLabs? Will there be a rotating flow of “labs”?

    As someone who has been looking at a lot of college websites recently, I think that the main page should have the word “Vermont” on it somewhere – not everyone knows where Middlebury is!

  2. I’m afraid I was less impressed than Helen–or maybe simply less polite. I certainly agree that the Home Page ought to somehow speak of Vermont and the landscape–in both pictures and (at least one) word: “Vermont!”. Our environment is surely one of our greatest assets and probably the easiest to advertise.

    In general I was very disappointed with the presentation yesterday. A couple of hundred people were there, I think expecting to see something of what the much talked about and long anticipated “new and improved” Middlebury website would be like, and how it would be an improvement. Instead, we spent an hour and a half hearing someone talk about being jet-lagged from his flight on the redeye, and (eventually) showing a few slides of what the site might look like, with zero demonstration of its functionality. Or of how it may be easier for faculty and staff to update content. What have these White Whale folks been doing for the past few months?

    I fully appreciate that the website serves multiple constituencies with a variety of different needs and desires. But surely basic functionality is never a bad thing, including access to a functional Search Engine, a Directory, Webmail, and (ugh!) BannerWeb, each with a single mouse-click from the home page.

    Call me Ishmael …

  3. I liked this timely article in the Chronicle about all the various audiences a college Web site must keep in mind. Particularly relevant after the presentation yesterday…

    http://chronicle.com/article/One-Voice-Many-Audiences/47114/

  4. I liked it! A lot! And I know I’m not alone, based on conversations with others on our way out of the presentation.

    The “Middle-verse” has a lot to offer and I think White Whale did a remarkable job coming up with a design that allows many aspects of “Middlebury International” to come across to a first-time viewer (which is the main audience of a college/university homepage), while at the same time not being so “busy” that you can’t see anything.

    Kudos to Jason Pontius, Tonya, and the others at WWWS!

  5. While the early returns are running to the positive, I suspect that once we post the designs and gather more feedback that the reviews will become more mixed.

    In answer to those who worry about whether or not the usability of the existing site will be improved, I would say that White Whale has done this sort of work for many, many colleges, and their work and their references suggest that they are pros at delivering an excellent final product. What they showed yesterday was simply their first rough cut at the overall look and feel and design, not intended to be in any ways final or complete. I think we should have done more to make that clear so that people would have been sure to come in with the right expectations. We wanted to get these ideas into circulation sooner rather than later, since it seemed a genuine waste of time to have them go much further until the rough cut had been vetted.

    I hope that as we move along in the process and we begin to see where we are going in terms of usability and functionality that the community will remain engaged in providing feedback. I genuinely believe that the site will get better only if we keep our users deeply involved in the process. There is no perfect solution that will make everyone happy, but it helps to make sure the conversation keeps going.

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