Unveiled homepage mockups for middlebury.edu

White Whale has shared with us mockup pages of the first round home page design, a small number of examples are displayed here.  Within this explanation, there are many links that demonstrate how this design can be used, and we invite you to explore them all and offer feedback.  Please feel free to share your comments here, on the blog.

From White Whale

Our first round Middlebury home page design is based around a content presentation model that we’ve been calling an “equalizer” or “waveform” for its resemblance to the visual output of an oscilloscope, audio equalizer or seismograph.

Each of these vertical bars contains a Middlebury “story” — which might be a photo, a link to a blog, a short video or audio clip, or a teaser for a longer story inside the Middlebury Web site. These stories will come from the entire Middleverse — of course throughout Middlebury College, but also from Bread Loaf, the language schools and schools abroad, the Monterey Institute, and any other places where Middlebury’s story is being told. Some of the bars will contain campus photographs or inline photo slideshows.

When a user moves his or her mouse over the waveform, they’ll see titles above each vertical bar corresponding to the story the bar contains. When a bar is clicked, it will open horizontally to show the story; the user can either go from there into the site to read the story, or can close the bar and continue browsing stories in the waveform. The user can also scroll the waveform from left to right, up to the number of available stories. In this way, the new homepage can accommodate any number of stories comfortably.

Open stories will have permalinks; in other words, it’ll be easy to link directly to one of the stories in the waveform. So if there’s a feature story about you on the Middlebury homepage, you’ll be able to send your parents a link to the homepage with your box already open.

The color palette for the waveform will be chosen by Middlebury’s designers on an ongoing basis to correspond to the seasonal colors of Vermont. The palette might change four times a year, with the seasons; or Middlebury may choose to adjust the palette more frequently. Colors used in the homepage waveform will continue through the palette used throughout the rest of the site. The palette (and the shape of the waveform itself) can also be customized for special occasions or particular content needs (see below).

Although this waveform content presentation model will appear on the Middlebury home page only, we will produce a “widget” version of the same feature that can be used throughout the site to present feature content in any number of contexts.

There is an easter-egg style reveal of an aerial photograph of Middlebury’s campus, displayed after clicking “Quick Links” or “Directions & Contact Information” in the footer. See below for those links.

These are mockup images only, not functioning Web pages; the live version will be styled to ensure that the navigation links at the bottom are visible on the great majority of computer monitors. They’ll be fixed to the bottom of the screen (unlike here where the image cuts off after 750 pixels vertically).

For easy comparison, open in tabs.


  • Expanded Vermont footer: after clicking “Quick Links”
  • Expanded Vermont footer: after clicking “Directions & Contact Information”

  • 124 Responses to “Unveiled homepage mockups for middlebury.edu”

    1. Simple and beautiful. Finally there is some color on the midd website.

      Not sure yet about whether or not the simple interface and hiding content may actually make it more difficult to navigate but I’m def excited to see it up and running. Also, glad to see a sustainability tab included on the home page. When you scroll over a tab will it magnify (similar to mac docks) or does it just slide open?

      On the whole, you won’t find me starting up a facebook group demanding the new website’s removal. I just hope it’s as intuitive as it is simple.

      Well done, White Whale/Midd.

    2. Very interesting concept–SOOO different. I have recently been updating our office contact lists and many of the people have moved on from the institution where they were teaching when they came here to another. PLEASE be sure that directory is accessible from the home page as it is currently. Having to search through umpteen pages of content to find a person directory is frustrating.

    3. “When a user moves his or her mouse over the waveform, they’ll see titles above each vertical bar corresponding to the story the bar contains.”

      Can you show a mockup of these mouse over titles? I understand that without the titles, the equalizer becomes an unknown, but I am worried that the titles will clutter the great design. Why not rely on the really cool search capability that your developer suggested to navigate the equalizer. The important “middstories” will be flagged to automatically open by the communications department to guarantee that they will be read and the other stories should be “discovered” by exploring the equalizer. I see it more as an interactive “game/widget” than a navigation tool and I would be more inclined to click on multiple stories and to spend more time using it if I didn’t know what each story was beforehand. When I needed to find something specific, I would use the search to narrow my choices.

      One last thing. If you decide to change the color pallete according to the seasons, it might be interesting to change the aerial photographs for the contact page based on the seasons as well.

    4. I am perplexed. First we dropped “college” from our name, now we represent ourselves as a collection of colorful stories… How does this new design express our core mission as an institution of higher education?

    5. From Tom Corbin:

      The College Store is currently on the bottom of the homepage as a link, this provides easy access to our web shoppers, losing this and making people hunt for the store may have a negative impact on sales at a time when we are being asked to increase our contribution to the budget.

    6. Usability above the pleasure of making the design.
      Bad to remove the word ‘college’ as this increases ambiguity and deliberately conceals information and simplicity. Click-through should be minimized. Making people hunt for stuff is frustrating, especially in Vermont where many people, much of the time, still have poor internet access, so every click means an extra wait, an extra traffic light.
      Who is this for? The self-esteem of the designers, or ease of use for the visitor?

    7. I don’t know — this design doesn’t say “Middlebury College” to me — it doesn’t capture the importance of nature, of engagement, of passion for knowledge and learning. It seems abstract and detached, not driven and involved and interconnected.

      This design is an artificial flower, not an organic garden.

      Hard to tell from the static graphics — but it seems to me that looking for “stories” would be more like a scavenger hunt than a directed search for information. I think a working example would be a lot more helpful.

      I thought the previous two choices of design (which were totally different from this one) were the ones being developed. What happened to them?

    8. Everything below the waveform looks nice, once expanded. The waveform seems not a first impression but an interior feature (indeed a very attractive one).

      I don’t understand why the website old or new needs to emphasize stories so much. A sense of the College mission seems obscured, as mentioned in other responses.

      Could we emphasize the curriculum, the arts, athletics, organizations and the many other impressive aspects of the College community in a more open and visible way? Is this a community, or a collection of attractive personal highlights?

    9. From Kate Lupo ’10: “The Middlebury website looks amazing! I absolutely love the waveform design!”

    10. From Molley Kaiyoorawongs ’09: “yo, that’s the home [page?
      Middlebury is too beau4tiful to have just bars in a rainbow spectrumrepresent it . NOT APPROVED.”

    11. From MiddBlog:

      Deborah Young (Music Dept) writes:
      “This web site is a marketing tool, just like the other one. I would like to see more emphasis on information exchanges for students, faculty, and staff. Thank you.”

      Caroline Eisner (Breadloaf) writes:
      “Beautiful. Different. Simple. I like the risk.”

    12. I love it. A modern design, simple, great aesthetics. It only takes a few seconds of clicking over to sites for other colleges to see the advances made with White Whale’s mock-ups.
      Here, I’ll help…

      Swarthmore: http://swarthmore.edu/
      Williams: http://www.williams.edu/
      Wesleyan: http://wesleyan.edu/
      Bowdoin: http://www.bowdoin.edu/
      Colby: http://www.colby.edu/

    13. Visually striking, impressively flexible. It balances nicely the needs of its various audiences–and stories are an effective way of conveying what is possible here. The interface is both accessible and endlessly tweak-able.

    14. I agree with other comments concerning the header. I think it should be Middlebury College. I’m not opposed to a web makeover and I think this is indeed a striking possibility, but there’s been so much bickering in the past few years over logos, branding and so on… ‘Middlebury’ all by itself is confusing and without the longer title the page reminds me a little of a blog, rather than a hub for Middlebury students, prospective students, faculty staff and community members.

    15. I like the design a lot, in part because it is so very different (and attractively different). I think it’s fine to go with something more abstract, as long as there is content behind the abstraction (which there is). As for telling stories, that is what an external audience will listen to and remember. In a sense, then, there is a big leap from the abstract design to the concrete story. As long as the identity/mission is communicated through the stories, I think it will work well.

    16. Well done, White Whale! I think this design will make a lasting impression on those most likely to be seeing and experiencing it as a gateway to a better understanding of Middlebury—prospective students, donors, parents, visitors, and alums. I think this design is novel, inviting, memorable, and does an excellent job of providing a space in which the many pieces that comprise Middlebury are presented as a unified whole (the whole “Middleverse”.) I think the idea of displaying stories illustrating a piece of the Middlebury experience—whether from an individual student, a staff member, a sports team, or a faculty research project—is a unique and compelling way to communicate with site visitors what it is that makes Middlebury special. I appreciate the value of a carefully constructed page and the aesthetic and navigational value of having less “stuff” on a landing page (contrasted with our current landing page). I have confidence that the links, menus, and/or portals will send users to any additional information and content they seek that is not right there on the main page. I think this product manages to hold up to ideals of good design AND utility.

    17. To those commenting on the lack of “College” on the website…. This is not something that came from the designers, nor is associated with the web makeover at all. Dropping “College” was an (unfortunate, in my view) branding decision made a year+? ago by Communications (the current website, new business cards, letterhead, etc. also lack “College”).

      More to the point: I like the new design, but wasn’t sold until I saw the flexibility (and potential humor) of the design. I’d like to see the campus involved in exploring its flexibility – a design contest, perhaps, for a Winter Carnival waveform, Jterm waveform, etc. if changing the waveform occasionally is sustainable. Is it?

    18. i would like to see a news feed somewhere on the bottom so that i don’t have to go on a hunt through the interactive bars to find out whats new.

      also the images of campus should be overscaled. its so annoying for every image on the college website to be thumnail sized. when you scroll over each interactive bar of the wave, i would like to see the “college images” even larger

    19. I think it is a very bold design and concept. Seems there is a clear generational divide, from what one might deduce, with the younger audience liking the design and more senior folks not.

      The stories in fact, as Jeff C notes, provides the best case for what Middlebury is or can be. If those stories of what students, facutly, and staff are doing are compelling, what better way to show what is possible here and what fantastic things go on?

      As for including or not including “college,” I looked at the sites listed above by Tim S and Williams, Bowdoin, Swarthmore, and Colby do not include College on their sites. What does that tell us about our own feeling that the word “college” is so necessary? That Middlebury is not as recognizable as an institution of higher education as the other four?

      Change is good and it is good to lead as this site will predict, produce very quick followers. The big issue is functionality, and it remains to be seen how improved this new site will be from our clunky existing site. But as far as design and potential is concerned, a big thumbs up.

    20. As an incoming freshman, It’s easy for me to look at it from the perspective of a prospective student, which is really who this site is for (well, them and donors). I think that it might make sense to put the navigation links (Admissions, Academics, etc.) above the Equalizer just because that’s what a prospective student is most likely to be looking for. It definitely should have a picture (or several pictures) of Midd somewhere more prominent than something that only shows up when you click a link that’s off the bottom of the first screen, maybe a relatively small one opposite the search bar on top. I’m a bit concerned by the reliance on stories as well; what happens if there aren’t enough new stories?

      Don’t get me wrong, I really like overall design as a webpage (although we really need a working mockup of the equalizer with names and pictues to see how it feels), I just think that it maybe focuses a bit too much on being spartan and modern for Midd. In my mind, it would benefit from having a bit more content like images and a bit less emphasis on flashy web coding.

      Oh, and if the wave form changes too frequently, it might get annoying/confusing, since it takes up so much of the page it would be like changing the entire page.

    21. I think there is a conceptual error going on here. The people who go to a web site are not an “audience.” The web site is not a video game people go to with a vacant mind looking to be captured as if reading a novel. People go to a web site as they go to a closet looking for the coffee beans.

      It is great for it to be beautiful, ingenious, new, and arresting, with many unexpected benefits; but first of all, people go there because they are looking for something specific. It should be easy to find. Otherwise it’s like those ‘faction’ novels that put off information while trying to ‘engage your interest.’

      As to dropping “college”, yes, it’s good to visit the sites cited in the list by Tim Sinnott, but you KNOW you are going to a college site when you go to those, since Tim already told us. What about the person who doesn’t know what Middlebury college is, or thinks it’s University of Middlebury, or is looking for a town web site. Wikipedia calls it ‘disambiguation.’ Good goal.

    22. Emily Culp ’11: “Love the font. Like the idea of seasonal color rotation. Right now, colors are kind of gross.”

    23. I must admit, I am somewhat disappointed with the homepage. Not sure how I located it, but I found the page for the Monterey Institute to be much more appealing.

      My primary objection is this: Middlebury boasts one of the most beautiful campuses in the world – and we don’t have a photo on the homepage emphasizing that? (The picture from the “footer” is simply not enough in my opinion) I believe the incoming first-year/prospective student has put it best – the functionality of the site is important to current students, faculty, and staff. The aesthetic appeal of the website is basically an ad – how can our site not boast one of Middlebury’s best features?

    24. My bias is in favor of function over form. I agree with those who highlight the importance of being able to find information quickly and easily. I think the design can be arresting but only if it is also intuitive.

      I also want to emphasize the importance of the site’s flexibility:

      (1) I think the site should be usable on a variety of devices with varying screen sizes (including netbooks & PDAs), different browsers & OSs, and different levels of horsepower. Will all of these animations bog down on older computers? Will the graphics fit on small devices? (i.e. What is included in “the great majority of computer monitors”?) How standards compliant is the design? Does it rely on proprietary elements like Flash or does it embrace HTML 5? How long does it take to load?

      (2) Will this design be able to be extended to other Middlebury sites with other “audiences”? Does this waveform design suit department pages (e.g. with faculty giving their “stories”)? Or will there be disjuncture between the main page and the other parts of the college site?

      I agree that it looks sharp–but will it work as we’d like?

    25. Several of you have commented on the potential difficulty of finding information in the site and the fact that the colored bars are hard to decipher. I think it is important to remember that people who want specific information will go directly to the information they need, usually by a search (search box) or the quick links. These elements are there, and right where you would expect to find them. There are a lot of ways to get into a site and the design above indicates awareness of that. I like it and I think it will be effective.

    26. Why have we hidden images of our beautiful campus and vibrant student life behind a disproportionately large series of colorful lines?

      The old website prominently and proudly displays images of our campus, students, activities, facilities, and culture immediately upon opening. The rotating series of images and stories of the old site succinctly capture what this site attempts to achieve through overkill.

      The new website is akin to the proposed Middlebury logo of last year. Its tacky and disconnected from the things that define Middlebury College. We should let upfront images and stories of the college speak for themselves without the handicap of b-rate modern art.

    27. I admit that I’m intrigued by the nifty visual effect of the bars and it’s sleek, modern appeal. It looks cool!

      That said, I think the thing that gets me about the new website setup is the fact that these days people make judgments in seconds. You have to instantly interest them, or they’ll just move on to looking at the next college on their list.

      With the new website you have to be willing to give it a little time and explore to see what Middlebury is about, whereas before you saw that immediately when you logged on – without even having to scroll over a bar or click on a box you saw our amazing landscapes, beautiful building and cheery students – so within two seconds you already had an impression of what Middlebury is all about.

      I think we need to carefully consider the image of Middlebury we want to portray, and not sacrifice it for a very cool, but potentially gimmicky design feature.

    28. Andrew — I think you missed my point about the inclusion or exclusion of “college” to the header of the site.

      Of course I knew I was going to a college website when I looked in on Swarthmore, Williams, Bowdoin, and Colby, none of which have “college” after their names.

      But those you fear will come to Midd’s site and not know it is a college will also be going to those other sites not knowing they are a college and it doesn’t seem to have been an issue for those colleges.

      My point was why Middlebury students, faculty, and staff would find it any more troubling not to have college in our name than other institutions seem to find it? Is it confidence in how well known Middlebury is or isn’t? Something else? My personal opinion is either works, but I am curious why this is such an issue for some when it is more common not to have college than it is (among leading liberal arts colleges).

    29. The rhetoric of the new homepage has a few glitches that I hope are adjusted as the website re-design evolves:

      1. The current homepage draft, with the vertical bars, creates a cyberspace that positions the viewer as a spectator in a museum staring at a nice painting. Even if we assume that the majority of students interested in applying to Middlebury love art, should we assume they would want to spend four years studying any subject inside a museum?

      2. A good deal of web design research suggests that when persons go online to find information, they want to find it quickly. And if they do not, they move on. Many elements of the homepage design work against helping potential students find information quickly.

      3. While Middlebury [College], I hope, wants to attract all sorts of students, the vertical bars that dominate the homepage–bars that could easily be interpreted as symbols for the human beings that populate the campus–are profoundly uniform in size and shape. Just like the students we are hoping to attract to our faceless organization?

      4. For 30 years, I have watched high school students go through the complex process of finding a college. Many who actually travel to visit a school, often tell me that something about the place touched them, made them feel a space’s beauty, made them feel that they could belong there. The rhetoric of the homepage has no place to belong. The vertical bars move in electronic waves, like the ones we see on hospital monitors connected to the sick. Is this really the first image we want prospective students to see before they click to another school?

    30. I just finished watching the “unveiling” of the new Middlebury website and wanted to provide you with some feedback from a current student. The new design, while simple and unique, seems industrial, as if Middlebury were some kind of electronics company. The home page should be welcoming to all users (alumni, faculty, students, affiliated students, and prospective students). The multi-colored lines, while tear-dropped from Vermont scenes, fail to represent the magnificient learning environment that is Middlebury. Middlebury does have a presence internationally, but as others have mentioned, its location in Vermont is integral to the Middlebury experience. Additionally, the new modern design of the homepage fails to capture Middlebury’s rich history. I visit the website every day during the school year, and the vertical lines of the homepage will surely become less novel over time, even with changes in color and content. While I do not claim to be a web designer, I have attached an illustrated model of how I believe this current design could be modified. Instead of “Vermont” colored vertical lines, why not have the lines be fragmented representations of Middlebury scenes (this is better understood after examining the image below). In other words, take one photo of some aspect of Middlebury and split it across the vertical lines. When a visitor scrolled over the “equalizer,” each vertical line could still be a link to a story. In fact, scrolling over a line could cause it to temporarily turn a tear-dropped color, returning to the Middlebury scene when the mouse was not directly over a particular line. In my design, I included the Middlebury seal, which I believe will help to provide a sense of the school’s history and importance as an academic institution. There is no place more beautiful to learn than Middlebury, and I believe it’s absolutely essential that our website convey the unique quality of our learning environment.

      Daniel Whateley 2012′

      Blue Version of Webredo

    31. Maybe some rearranging of the page would make it much easier to navigate for someone who is viewing it for the first time. When I look at a new webpage, the first place my eyes go is to the top of the page or to the side to locate the “Table of Contents” for the site. But here, the listings are sandwiched between this dominating “waveform” and inconspicuously border the top of the aerial photo of the campus. Prospective students should be able to navigate our webpages quickly and effectively by making searchable items more visible. Perhaps the lovely photo of the campus could be raised to the top of the page, have searchable topics like, “Admisssions”, “Academics”, etc, at the very top pf the page, and this sterile-looking color bar could be minimized and put at the bottom of the page. The “waveform” is something that may be explored more thoroughly *after* a perspective student has gathered necessary basic information.

    32. Because I felt the original homepage (current) was too cluttered and irrelevant to the college (including too much info on Breadloaf, etc) I initially liked the redesign. However, I have to agree with Daniel Whateley and really like his idea of the college seal and the more scenic beauty of the campus. For those who know the place, perhaps you don’t need the visuals, but for prospective students and their parents, pictures are all they have to get that mental image. While the story idea is great, I really want to know about the news of the day and in researching schools last year I always appreciated that link to the student newspapers and newsfeed somewhere on the home page.

      Again, I really like the slight change that using a background photo makes in those vertical lines. They can still represent the same things as you scroll the mouse, but otherwise, if every one of those 45 of so equalizing bars contains some bit of information, it’s a little too much.

      Lastly, while it is interesting to hear other people’s stories, as a prospective student, you want to create your own experience, independent of what someone has done before you, and certainly not feel like you’re copying or emulating someone else. Talk to me about the resources in a way where, as a potential student, I might realize my own aspirations. Singular stories are great, but there is always the risk that you end up excluding someone because they don’t see themselves in whatever story is being told.

      While I agree the current webpage is too disjointed and includes too many other entities, this new website does not necessarily capture the personality of Middlebury. And whether it says college or not (and it makes no difference to me since when asked where son is going I simply say, Middlebury), it should be distinctly Middlebury. This page could have any college name on top. Also, personally, I think there needs to be more pictures as a whole – of the dorms, kids hanging out in the library, cafeterias, playing fields, labs, classrooms.

    33. Clarifying: When I say the website needs more pictures, I mean throughout the website and not on the homepage. When over 90% of your students come from outside New England, a lot will not have had the opportunity to see the school and even those who have seen it, will appreciate the visual reminders.

    34. It is quite lovely! Many people have made intelligent comments before me, so there’s not much more to say – I think they have good points, but at the base I think the design is good.

      One thing that might be nice – would it be possible to have one of the bars be opened by default when someone arrives at the page? That might make it seem somewhere more open and welcoming.

    35. “One thing that might be nice – would it be possible to have one of the bars be opened by default when someone arrives at the page? That might make it seem somewhere more open and welcoming.”

      I think that more often than not, one of the bars will be open–either to the story of the day, a breaking news item, or campus scenic.

    36. With all the other budget cuts, why can’t we have one here? It’s not like Midd is dying for prospective students or applications so a website makeover is not the right move right now with the college looking to save money and cutting everything from dining hall costs to athletic budgets. I’d rather have a good meal than a fancy website.

    37. Awful. What was wrong with the old one? We are a NESCAC college not an architecture firm or a web-design company —our website does not need to be so sleek or look like we are trying to be “cool.” And I have a question: Why, at a time like this, is Middlebury spending money on changing something that works just fine when funding for things like athletics and dining are being drastically cut back? Can someone explain this to me?

    38. I like the concept of the new website. I think. The problems I have with it are as follows: links to bannerweb, webmail, bookstore, etc are not obvious under “quick links”, lack of easy access to the directory and calendars, and the lack of imagery of Midd’s beautiful campus.

      Those who commented before me have valid points and/or suggestions. Please take them into consideration.

    39. The waveform has been described as “sterile” and “profoundly uniform” in these posts yet the recommendations for static images and traditional top navigation beg to copy exactly what EVERY other college does. We have an opportunity go beyond the 2 second first impression that a static photograph might give by including audio, video, multimedia slideshows, and news snippets in addition to photographs. White Whale has provided this opportunity within a creative, highly customizable, easily managed tool and I think we should give the equalizer a chance before returning to the confines of the traditional college website.

      As a staff member I will be using the search and quick links 99% of the time, but there is more to offer prospective students, donors, parents, alums, and other visitors than static photographs and text. I hope we can embrace the natural progression of multimedia on the web to communicate the core mission of the college, the beautiful geography, and the vibrant student life.

    40. Daniel Whateley’s design solves most of the issues raised here. 1. It is modern and sleek without being industrial. 2. The seal (which I think should be better placed, but is a good addition) conveys that we are a college and places emphasis on the tradition of Middlebury College. 3. It focuses on Vermont, which is the grounding of our school, no matter how international we may be, and on the “natural” aspect that generally guides life at Middlebury (through our food, our focus on environment, our love of sports, etc.).

      I think that the condensing of Academics, Campus Life, etc. into Current Students and Admissions and other things into Future Students is a good touch that streamlines the website. I have some international friends looking into the language masters program and they found any information about that hard to find. I think the new design takes care of that.

      It is important to redesign our website because our current want is messy.

    41. I like the overall design/concept, well done. However, when the page is first opened and no stories are clicked it doesn’t really say anything about Midd. It would be nice if it automatically opened a picture of the campus or something similar. I feel this would especially encourage high school seniors to explore a bit.

    42. 1. The links on the bottom are PERFECT–clean, well-organized and succinct. The less text the better.

      Sure, minimizing click-through is important, but a single click-through (ie, “news” link) is far better than waiting for a huge page to load (ie, a home page news feed). Another reason Google > Yahoo

      2. I want to see my beautiful CAMPUS loud and clear (think: new MIIS horizons design).

      All in all, our old and new website designs are both superior to every other liberal arts or ivy league website I’ve seen.

    43. Hi folks,

      Jason here from White Whale.

      Most of our recent redesign projects have included public blogs, where our work is posted and discussed. I have never, over the course of many years doing this, seen the volume and thoughtfulness of comments that are being expressed on this post! It’s a bit overwhelming, but I’m sure that Joe and his team will help us sift through everything.

      The one comment I’ll make for now is that I know it can be frustrating to look at a Web site as a series of static images, instead of a living, breathing, working environment. It’s frustrating for us too, and we’re looking forward to building it out more so you can really get a sense of how it’s going to work in practice. The fact is, the design isn’t very going to be experienced that way— as a series of colored bars— for very long. As soon as your mouse crosses that area you’ll be exploring the bar. So the *content* inside the waveform is much more important to this design than it may seem from these mockups.

      It’s also the case that the inside pages are just as important if not more so than the homepage. Those will hopefully be emerging over the next week or two, once we nail down some of the basic decisions about the stylistic approach.

      Thanks again, and keep the comments coming!

    44. A few thoughts:

      -I like what Alison/Christina said: it would be nice to have a default of having bars open. Would it be technically possible to imitate the iTunes “quickfind” view option to make it more obvious that the abstract lines actually represent stories?

      -I think the quicklinks/current students/alumni/etc menu needs to go above the bars. This would make the website more useful. Furthermore, I think prospective students will respond better to the site if they see that it is actually a functional tool. People are so used to marketing these days I think they get frustrated when something is obviously just there to look good.

      -Lastly, these aesthetic changes are interesting, but what content changes are being made to the website? Will the navigation of the site be more intuitive? Will there be better scheduling features? Will it be possible to make group email lists?

    45. It seems as if a lot of the debate boils down to finding the fine line between functional and efficient enough for the college community and attractive and impressive enough for prospective students or other interested groups. Following along these lines, I agree with many of the posts that the beautiful grounds themselves and the links to daily news deserve a larger role on the homepage.

      The new design is certainly interesting and fun, but looking back a year to when I was applying, my reaction to the website probably would have been a snide remark about the school wanting to show off a few unique “stories” instead of a bunch of kids sitting in the library. After a year at the school, I now know these stories are a huge part of what distinguishes the college, and I don’t object to featuring them on the web page. I only worry about focusing too much on what distinguishes and not enough on the everyday things that are incredibly valuable as well (news, what the campus looks like).

    46. I think it looks great, but Webmail and Bannerweb need to be available on the home page. When I’m not on campus, having those pages available with one click from the home page is important.

    47. First of all, I think it should definitely say “Middlebury College”, not just “Middlebury”. The waveform is definitely very cool though, and I like that it will bring some versatility to the page. I do think that the directory should be on the home page though. I find myself having to look people up all the time, it would be great if that function stayed readily accesible as it is now.

    48. Thank you for doing something different!!!

      If we were looking at a homepage with a big picture of students in the library, all the discussion would be about whether they are diverse enough, representative enough, retouched enough.

      The fact that the homepage is built on real Middlebury stories is actually the exact opposite of controlled “marketing-speak” websites!

    49. The old homepage doesn’t say Middlebury College, just Middlebury:

      Same with athletics:

      And all of our gear:

    50. I think that the homepage would be nicer if it included the ‘campus photograph’ as in image amongst the bars. I agree with a previous comment made: Middlebury is way too beautiful to be represented by just bars and lines, though it is an innovative and colorful new concept. I like the design, but i’d also like to see an image of Vermont and Middlebury as a feature of the homepage as well. I think that the iconic image and idea of Vermont, Middlebury, and the Green Mountains, etc, is one of the reasons (albeit shallow to same) why prospective students are drawn to Middlebury over over north east liberal arts colleges.

    51. as an** image amongst the bars.

    52. * over other north east liberal arts colleges

      (sorry for the typos. haven’t spoken english in a while.)

    53. 1. you can’t drop the word college along with everything that looks like a collgege website.
      I like the idea of an innovative homepage that doesn’t follow the same bozy pattern as every other college website. That being said, the mock up homepage just looks too ambigious, if you weren’t member of the community i you’d probubly need an explation of the webpage to figure out what you’re looking at.
      2. Middlebury is a warm and inviting community but the solid dark blue and color bars don’t communicate that to me. I like the idea of having a few articles open at all times. First, you can see photos of people or something to draw the user into using the waveform to search articles. If i weren’t a member of the cummunity how would I know there were articles there?
      3. is there a way students could personalize the homepage and add things like the daily menu to quick links?

      I really like the idea of totally reworking the format of a college website, but there needs to be more cohiesion between the what/who the website is for and how it functions. I like the ides but I think it definatley needs some more time at the drawing board.

    54. I’m impressed with the volume and quality of the comments here. I’m also impressed, overall, with the design (not a working model yet, but I like what I see thus far). It is indeed sleek, modern, and clean; I don’t see those as undesirable qualities. I understand the comments about the museum / web-design / architecture-firm vibe, but I think the waveform design needs to be allowed to show what it can do before we write it off. I think it has great potential.

      On the subject of Vermont / sense of place, I am sympathetic to the calls for the home page to default to an open waveform bar with a campus shot (with the exception of URLs meant to send someone to a different open story on the home page, of course).

      A few points:

      1. If listed as “Programs and Affiliates,” then these should appear in that order (Bread Loaf or LS/SA first, and then MIIS). As an aside, I am not a big fan of italics – I find them hard to read. Is there another way to differentiate these navigational items from the others?

      2. Along the same lines, I find the bottom nav-bar hard on the eyes (maybe it’s the black type on white background that makes it feel like a top-of-window menu-bar in an OS and not a navigational element of the Web page.

      3. It’s not clear to me whether the mouse-over on a bar will just show text alluding to the story or will automatically expand the bar visually (perhaps this would be too busy, but I agree with Ethan that having text on mouse-over is a little too explanatory and doesn’t inspire experimentation / discovery. I also agree that the waveform is not and should not be a navigational tool – when people want to navigate, they go to search or to the navigation menus.

      4. Count me as another voice for the “Directory” being listed under the “Quick Links” (on the other hand, I think BannerWeb and Webmail are fine where they are – if this menu expands on mouse-over and not on a click, then this doesn’t really increase the work required to get there). Functionally and aesthetically, the home page should not be primarily geared toward people entering their time-sheets (this is exactly the sort of cluttered “functionality” that makes other .edu home pages so horrendous – the sort of functionality that only people familiar with the site find functional).

      That being said, it remains to be seen how intuitive the navigation bars will be. I assume, for example, that all academic departments will be listed under “Academics”? Seems obvious, but it isn’t always done this way elsewhere, as anyone who spends time on other .edu Web sites knows.

      Overall, I commend the folks at White Whale and at Midd LIS for the work they’ve done, and I look forward to seeing more.

    55. I think that the new look is well-organized, clean and very cool. I like the wave-form which gets rid of a lot of clicking.
      What I would like to see is a news feed, similar to that on the current website.
      Although this look is different, it doesn’t scream Middlebury College to me! It lacks the color and the beauty that the campus has–both of which MUST be showcased on our college website. I think images of the college, similar to the ones on the current website would be ideal.
      All in all, I like the sleekness of the new design that White Whale has come up with, but using a few things from our current homepage to truly represent our beautiful college would be perfect!

    56. I think the designers sacrificed some usability for prettiness in this design. It is very pretty, but that is not the priority for this community, and the site should reflect the priorities of what the community needs, not what the designers think looks cool.
      The stories in the bars are definitely interesting, but I’d rather have a website that gives information about current happenings in the community of students, faculty, staff, townspeople, and alumni as well. Middlebury isn’t just a group of fascinating individuals.
      I’d rather “Middlebury College”, instead of only “Middlebury”.
      I can’t judge this static model, but I’d like a site much more horizontally integrated than the current one. It takes forever (lots of clicks) to get to a paticular location now, and it’s often difficult to find what you’re looking for.
      I think the new site should have more info on alumni and town activities, as well as being much more community and activity oriented for the current students- and updated more regularly and in bigger ways!
      Right now, the new site is quite pretty, but still feels static and like it is trying to sell MIddlebury to the outside world, specifically prospective students and donors. That’s not what the Middlebury community is about. Yes, the site is for propective students and donors, but also for current students, faculty, staff, townspeople, and alumni!

    57. P.S. Good work- thanks for listening to comments!

    58. Something I think we (those commenting) need to keep in mind–the homepage is “outward-facing.” If you are a current student or faculty and staff member, it’s not necessarily for you. Those internal constituents who feel that usability has been sacrificed or that the homepage doesn’t give folks on campus enough info that they may need (BannerWeb, WebMail, events, etc) are missing the point–it’s not supposed to do that.

      It’s my understanding that folks on campus–students, faculty members, staff members–will have the opportunity to have their own “homepage” portal that will feature this information, much as one can customize their own Yahoo page, etc.

    59. @MJ: That’s correct, we’re working on “portal” functionality where students, faculty, and staff can customize their own jumping-off page with their important links like bannerweb, mail, etc. For those of you that use iGoogle or MyYahoo — that’s the concept we’re going for. Better yet, we won’t force anyone to adapt the Middlebury portal if they already have an iGoogle or MyYahoo set up. We’d like to see information be accessible via RSS so you could port information into other systems you already use.

      And keep the comments coming! We’re listening.

      Here’s another comment from MiddBlog by Natty: “I love the new interface, and while I’m a little wary of having those “inspirational” stories about midd and midd students (I just find them pretentious, sometimes) be so central, as long as it’s easy to get to the real information then as an opening page it’s fine. It does seem a little spartan – some beautiful photo(s) of middlebury would be nice – maybe as a faint background for the whole page that changes with the seasons.”

    60. I guess I’m one of those rare senior folks who really likes the new design. I admit I was skeptical when Jason showed the first image, but the equalizer and the stories soon became intriguing and I thought the examples of theming (breast cancer awareness, the evils of conformity etc.) were delightful.

      I think the search capability that Jason demonstrated at another White Whale site will go a long way towards addressing some of the concerns expressed.

      I am hopeful that the LIS and Communications web makeover efforts currently underway will help even more, especially with respect to the needs of currrent faculty/staff/students. (Full disclosure: I work for LIS and am part of this effort.)

      One minor question: it was stated that there would be static URLs pointing to the page with a specific story open, such that one could, for example, send one’s story to friends and family. Will that link point to the equalizer as it existed when the story was active or to the current theme with the specific story embedded and opened?

    61. I’ve heard many people say that “Middlebury looks like what everyone thinks an American college campus ought to look like… except they hardly ever do.” I agree with many of the comments above: we have a beautiful campus, so why not show it off? I’m a student worker in the admissions office and one of the most common things we get feedback on is the beauty of the campus. Let people be amazed by it before they even get here!
      I agree that the Directory should be included in “Quick Links.” We refer prospective students and parents to the directory all the time: I’m not looking forward to directing them through seven links to get there.
      The gray bar at the bottom of the screen gets a little lost. It reads as a solid blue page, and the viewer’s eye doesn’t include that bar as part of the page (especially when viewed on a PC with another light gray bar at the bottom of the internet window!).
      I don’t like the italics for the Programs and Affiliates section, at least for the title. It’s already in a different font.
      I hope the colors of the waveform bars get changed, too, but other than that I quite like the website. Well done! It’s easy for people to complain about what they don’t like, but overall the design is innovative and interesting. It will make people want to keep looking.

    62. my initial impression is positive. i’m excited to see this live.

    63. I think the scenery of VT should take a greater presence on the website. And I agree with Guntrum — how does this convey that we are an extremely strong institution of higher learning?

    64. It is a flashy and arresting design, and I like the high integration of “new media.” It shows a definite attempt to move forward, to communicate with a younger generation that has become accustomed to easily accessible sound bites of human interest. Bravo on being different from comparable college websites.
      On the other hand, I agree with the comments above that note the new look’s impersonal, overly industrial effect. Daniel Whateley’s solution for the waveform is more appealing. As for seasonal changes of the website, instead of having different color schemes for the bars, why not use current campus pictures instead?

    65. I like the waveforms but prefer Daniel Whateley’s version.

    66. It should say Middlebury College instead of just Middlebury. I asked a friend’s opinion and he asked if it was a crayon or pastel company. I also wish there was some kind of color taxonomy–one color for pictures, another for stories, etc.

    67. I think what a lot of the students above are misunderstanding is that although, yes, this website is for them, it is also for the monterey students, the breadloaf writers, the people from around the world who go to the language schools, and every perspective student.

      There is more to Middlebury than its scenery, and i think the new website does a good job in showing this. Like it or not, Middlebury is a ever growing company that looks to be a national, if not world, leader in languages and international affairs. By branding the college as just a pretty face (i.e. plastering the homepage with photos of cows) we are detracting from the highly academic, innovative atmosphere that is Middlebury and retreating back into the “small liberal arts environmental college” box.

      Even though I myself am a student, I hope white whale does not take too many of the comments above to heart. I agree, the design needs more work, but in theory its a great idea. KEEP IT UP!!

    68. I also recommend people watch the video– a lot of people’s questions have already been answered in the video! (i.e color schemes…)

    69. Here’s a link to the video: http://sites.middlebury.edu/webredo/2009/07/24/middlebury-design-presentation-by-white-whale/

    70. I love the different direction, but the color bar looks like a kindergartner’s rainbow clay set, or an 80’s graphic.

      I like the starkness and simplicity, but there is a sharp line between kid-pix graphics and sophisticated sleek. Where is the stunning landscape, or any indication of our incredible international presence? I want to see students that are bigger than a jpeg, I want to immediately understand why Middlebury’s professors will blow my mind.

      This isn’t MIdd’s first blog, its Middlebury’s foremost way of branding itself to the world. And the design should reflect that!

    71. It’s certainly arresting — but I also like Daniel Whateley’s version better. It conveys a more vivid picture of the College instantly, but still retains the general concept. We aren’t a 64-crayon Crayola package, but a real place where people live and work. As so many people have pointed out, Middlebury’s beauty is one of our most important assets, so highlight it!

      It’s also important to remember that the main portal page DOES get used frequently by people within the college, who therefore need it to be functional. I’m a faculty member who has just returned from two months abroad, where I was frequently unable to use my own computer to connect to things at the college. And when that is the case, I am generally paying for access by the minute, so time matters — especially when the computer I am forced to use is a slow one. Please don’t make it difficult for those who are away to get to webmail, Banner, the directory, etc. I am very often grateful that I can access the webmail page (especially) so quickly and easily.

      When I visit another college’s website, there are two things that I often find it surprisingly difficult to find: the mailing address and main telephone number, and a PRINTABLE campus map (not a fancy schmancy interactive map that I can’t take with me when I need to find my way to someone’s office). Put a link to a campus map on the directions and contacts tag.

      What is MiddLab, and why does it deserve its own special front page link? Why is “Middlebury International” a link when schools abroad etc have a different link below? Could that virtual real estate be reserved for something that is functional for faculty, staff and students, like Webmail?

      Having the line that is specifically for present faculty, staff and students be a nearly-invisible drab gray at the bottom of the page sends a disconcerting message: we want to attract you here, but we’re less interested in you once you’re here. I didn’t even see the banner at all when I first looked at the page. We deserve better than that.

    72. First of all, my initial reaction to this design is very positive. I like the simplicity, the wave pattern and the vision behind the design.

      However, I think there are a few practical concerns with the design (which I’m sure have already been raised). My concern is that the site doesn’t seem to consider current students. We have certain basic needs (WebMail and Banner the foremost).

      We need to have a balance between current students, prospective students, staff, administrators, etc. Right now, it seems like the current students are an afterthought.

      Obviously, the international facet of Middlebury is a huge asset, but one that should not be overstated. We don’t need to have ONLY content based on international students, etc. Most of us have interesting stories that are worth sharing. International content should be a part of the site, but it should not overwhelm it.

      Aesthetically, people are drawn to Middlebury because of its’ beauty. We should emphasize Vermont more prominently, whether that be through a picture that comes up automatically on a wave. I like the blue background, but the beauty of nature (tying in with our environmental programs) should be seen on the site.

      Overall, I am impressed with this initial proposal. There is room to grow and improve from here.

    73. I think it’s absolutely true that people should watch the video to answer some of the questions. Once I fully understood how many other entities the homepage had to accommodate, I better understood the equalizer’s far-reaching purpose. I still like Mr. Whateley’s sliced picture bar graph, as the true heart of Middlebury will always reside in Vermont, but I believe a good compromise can probably be achieved rather easily. Also, because of this and if it is to be inclusive, scenic photos of campuses abroad and California need to also be included. While “smiling students” are great, I don’t think we need invent opportunities for to showcase racial diversity, because that’s a fairly limited view of diversity regardless.

    74. I’ve looked over the web site mock-up and watched much of the video and while I can see some of the appeal of the redesign, I would echo recurring comments that we are privileged to live/work/learn in a beautiful environment at Middlebury College, and that should be more prominent than it is in the redesign. The disturbing line in the video was that “we’re not leading with a whole lot of Vermont” but that “if you click and scroll down you can find it”. I would love to see it more central and visible. Yes, there are many constituents and component parts to Middlebury, but if we have to search to find Vermont – and Middlebury College – among them, we’re really losing something central.
      I also concur with the importance of retaining the webmail link on the front page. PLEASE.

    75. Daniel Whateley: great idea. Some kind of hybrid would be fantastic.

      combining a more tangable (or visible representation of midd life) with the new bar system really works for me. something along these lines, that change with the seasons seem to solve the porblem of understanding what “middlebury” is- not a firm but a comunity thats both environmentally concious and forward thinking. white whale: please play around with this idea!

    76. Is it that hard to just bookmark webmail.middlebury.edu? Really?

    77. I just wanted to add a bit of additional information for those in our community who are coming to this page afresh and haven’t been closely following the progression of this project.

      (Note: While I work in LIS and am involved behind the scenes in the web-makeover project — in ways unrelated to design — these comments are not in any way a response on behalf that team, just my personal thoughts having watched this project closely.)

      Scope of the design announcement:
      The design shown above is just one part of a very large project to overhaul the main college web presence. On the graphic-design side, White Whale is currently hard at work on a set of complementary graphic treatments that will be used on the rest of the site. From what I understand, the interior pages will likely make heavy use of beautiful photography that shows off the campus. While this is going on, colleagues in virtually every department on campus are beginning the work of auditing, editing, and reorganizing the content of the site. In this process it is hoped that important content will be much easier to find by both browsing or searching. Lastly, in addition to building out the platform for the new site, LIS is currently at work rebuilding the online directory, search engine, course catalog, and other pieces to make all of them provide more relevant information faster to all members of community. The homepage design is but one important part of a much larger whole — hence why we can’t see it all in action yet.

      Directory, search, and other quick-access needs:
      At least as I understand the current vision described by White Whale in the presentation, directory results (and other ‘faceted’ results like departments, courses, etc) will displayed along-side general web-page matches. This means that typing someone’s name in the search box on the home-page and hitting “Go” will bring up relevant directory entries as well as web-pages. This is one less click than on the current site, but not something you could see by looking at the static images above.

      Stories in the wave:
      As I understand it, the wave is not meant to be used by people trying to find a specific piece of information, but rather by people who want to get a sense of “What happens at Middlebury?” beyond the somewhat expansive list of events on any given day. I think its supposed to allow us to feature all the really cool stuff that happens in our community, but that happens much too often to warrant sending out a professionally written press-release. By the way, you can submit your stories here.

      My personal take:
      Many of the concerns others listed above raced through my head in the first few minutes of the homepage unveiling. While some of my concerns remain, by the end of the presentation and in the following days I’ve now come around to thinking of the homepage as something like a magazine cover: It shows a feeling of what the magazine (college) is about, with a low number of headlines (links) to point readers to the most defining bits. For people who are looking for something specific, the table of contents (search, quick links, student/faculty portals, directional pages, news stories) are just inside the cover one click away. Other college websites with more links make me think that they view the homepage as a catch-all table of contents rather than a front cover (Swarthmore’s for instance has 116 links). Vassar takes more of the font-cover approach like the White Whale design (arguably at the risk of site visitors mistaking the college for a theater company). Striking an appropriate balance has got to be one of the biggest challenges for the design team.

    78. As someone who was just recently on the college hunt ( I will be a freshman in the fall), and who is now frequently exploring the website so I can learn everything about Middlebury, I focus on two things when I visit the website: visual appeal and practicality. To be completely honest, the old design was fine. In fact, I find the current website much easier to navigate compared to websites for many other schools. The new website looks prettier than the current one, but will also be just fine.

      There is only one problem with the new website: the omission of the word college.

      As a student that comes from the midwest, many people have not heard of Middlebury College. In fact, many people who were applying to schools comparable to Middlebury had no clue that it even existed. If there is not a clearer indication that Middlebury is a small liberal arts school in Vermont, those students who are not actively seeking out Middlebury will glance over the website. While searching for colleges I was cruising quickly for eye catching websites, but if I have no clue that Middlebury is even a college, what’s the point?

    79. I don’t think anyone has clarified that the stories within the waveform do not need to be “individual” stories. At the presentation White Whale mentioned that MiddLab stories, which are theme based interdisciplinary stories involving any number of students, faculty, and staff, and community members would also make their way into the waveform.

      I don’t have an opinion about the Middlebury vs. Middlebury College debate, but as a few people have pointed out it is not on the current site. There are very few liberal arts colleges that reside in a town with the same name that use the “College” distinction on their website (Oberlin, Swarthmore, Hamilton, Haverford, Bryn Mawr, Davidson). The “.edu” seems to be the distinction that separates the town sites (.com) from the college websites in most cases.

    80. I like the design.

      It fits into the current minimalism trend in web deisgn which encourages users to explore when they arrive the site – simple web 2.0 look, big fonts, abstract image, etc. Good choice of typography. The homepage is like a portfolio for the college, which conveys the live information to first-time browser.

      I am excited to see the further development on the equalizer concept. Although scenery is a big part of Middlebury, in my opinion it should not play the main role on the homepage – there is so much more physical reality about the school other than scenery and focusing on what people are doing is important.

      Adam listed the example of Vassar (mistaken for a theatre company? that’s a good one.) I would also suggest those who are interested to have a look on William and Mary’s site (www.wm.edu) The identity of a college, in wm’s case, is reflected by some simple “tagline.” I imagine that, with some creative effort, Middlebury can reach the balance between designing a good website and branding too hard. I agree with Jason that “it’s all about categories – how you categorize information.” So the question left maybe what name and character we give the category.

      That being said, with the commercialized first look, I am curious about how the the other webpages will be carried out, especially the “consistency” of the entire site. Would they keep the same kind of quality of creativity and refreshness as the homepage? How much felixibilty would the designers leave the college to fit the content with the layout?

    81. The graphic design is terrific – provocative, good use of white space, and engaging. I see some “Mad Men” behind this design.

      Stories, stories, stories… (I still have 20 more to list for my waves). It’s a very American, and not a terribly appealing, idea to flaunt constant individual success (there’s a hubris here that mimics Wall Street). And every other college has similar stories and puts them “in your face” – literally – since they always show smiling students. Does this reflect a valid mission?

      A few stories are welcome, and appropriate – just reduce the number of bars.

    82. The waveform design is certainly an interesting idea but it doesn’t really seem to represent the college. Too much work was put into creating a cutting edge design with not enough though into what information it might actually need to portray. It seems silly that a school with such a nice campus should rely entirely on abstract designs to create a first impression on users viewing the website.

      For most people viewing the website the stories aren’t going to be their main focus (I would expect) rather they will be looking for some specific piece of information and might look at the stories as an interesting side note. With this design though the stories seem to be the central focus of the entire page. It’s hard to tell from just static images but I think this will probably take away from usability in the long run.

      Also why the removal of the word college? We are still a college after all, shouldn’t we represent ourselves as one?

    83. Waveform? Equalizer? Oscilloscope? Nah–Bookshelf. Full of books. That’s what it looks like, that’s what it is, Open one, read a story.

    84. The new design looks crisp and clean, but I’m with lots of other folks who miss the beautiful pictures of Vermont, of students, of campus buildings that are central to the Middlebury COLLEGE experience. Dan Whately’s idea seems like a neat way to combine photos of this beloved campus with the waveform design.

      The emphasis on stories on the main page is a little much for me, but I guess that’s more for marketing to the outside world than for anything else. It is nice to learn [through these stories] what neat things are taking place in different departments, clubs, and student groups on campus, but that’s not what most of the “inside Middlebury” people are needing when they go to the website, and I doubt that I’ll have the time or take the time to read them when the webpage comes up on my screen — functionality! functionality!

    85. I like the direction, but agree with the criticism that this proposed home-page is ambiguous. Is Middlebury a design firm? music blog? business? new Myspace/Facebook?

      I think Middlebury’s Administration is too concerned with Merchandising and Franchising the Middlebury name. This new design reminds me of the catastrophe we had last year… wasting millions of dollars on a new logo that is totally disconnected with the school.

      Please, don’t waste our tuition on these poorly constructed motifs. I’d rather we not fire our wonderful staff for these flops.

      Good luck.

    86. While the design is certainly interesting and very modern, it does not accurately represent the Middlebury atmosphere. Part of the draw of Middlebury is that we are a prestigious Liberal Arts Institution in a lovely rural setting. We have one of the most beautiful campuses around, with New England architecture. This new design is too abstract for a homepage. We need to have some visuals on the homepage. A “watermarked” in behind the color bars or something is needed!!

    87. Mr. Schmoe: Millions of dollars on the logo? Come on. Disinformation is not becoming of a liberal arts education, or a liberally educated individual. Comments need to be based in fact.

      I agree that a logo is silly and that was a waste, but it was not “millions,” and not even close (like not even near $1M from earlier reports on campus)…but that was that and this is a website. The web is so important to the College in ways that go far beyond “merchandising” as comments in this string, which underscore concerns about the utility and functionality of the new site. The old site was clunky and did not provide users, mostly on-campus folks, with what a web should and thus this is not a waste of money by any means. This affects both workers (trying to get information) and students/facutly, as the web plays (or should) a major role in classwork. Finally, the design (what the front page looks like) is far less of an expense, whatever it should look like, than the “guts” of the site, or how it functions.

      I look forward to seeing demos of the functionality of the new site before criticizing the design, but I don’t believe many would argue that the current web is multiple generations old in terms of what it could do for many constituencies at the College.

    88. disclaimer:
      1) I’m a normally a nice, non-critical person
      2) I build sites for a living

      This might be the stupidest web site layout I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s does not take the user’s goals into mind at all, nor does it address the various constituencies that come to the site. Each person should arrive at a homepage and easily find what they’re looking for. This is ridiculous. The web is about information and this site design obfuscate it.

      The College is, once again, going to have a really poor web site. It’s been that way as long as I can remember. Why I expected that to change is beyond me.

    89. Hey wowstupid — how about providing some links to some of the sites you have built so we can all marvel at your brilliance and maybe make some constructive comments?

    90. Joe Schmoe, wowstupid:

      We welcome all kinds of feedback, but please use your real name when leaving comments. That way we’ll know you’re not a student from another college trolling the redesign blog. 🙂

    91. This is a response to: Nikolai, on July 30th, 2009 at 5:01 am.

      Wow, you stay up even later than I do!

      It’s really not a huge deal to me whether or not to include the word “college”, but I think some of the arguments voiced against including it are just sophistry. The ‘sense of inferiority’ argument: I doubt that Michael Jackson continued calling himself Michael Jackson because he felt inferior to Madonna or Sting.

      As to whether the absence of the word has been an issue for Swarthmore or Williams, I don’t think we have any real information. But I think it’s interesting that there is so much discussion about this, when the word ‘college’ is already absent from the current web page. This seems to indicate that there is an objective appetite for the word, quite apart from any comparison of old and new home pages.

      If you google “Middlebury College” you get lots of stuff about Middlebury College! Good. But if you google just “Middlebury” there are all sorts of strange things even on the first two pages, such as the “Middlebury Institute” which seems to be a whacko secessionist organization that advocates overthrowing the government when you don’t like it. Not to be confused, of course, with the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, which does indeed appear when googling “Middlebury College” as it is legitimately affiliated.

      Clarity is gained by using the word ‘college’. The stylistic benefits of omitting it seem dubious. I suppose if you prefer Eliot to Larkin, the element of ambiguity is attractive. But the fact that other colleges do this is only a matter of fashion, which we are free to ignore.

    92. I really like the concept.

      It would be really nice if we had a media page that interactively displayed an array of high resolution photographs and videos of Middlebury.

    93. Here’s my take on the webpage. I did not visit Middlebury until after I was accepted, so the website was a main contributing factor to my decision to apply. I read a student quote that said, “Four years is not enough time to experience everything there is at Middlebury,” and I was hooked. As a rising freshman, the website is still important to me as it represents my home for the next four years; these are my suggestions.

      1) GET RID OF THE BARS. I was honestly shocked to see several bars on the main page of the website. They represent sound waves, so is Middlebury solely a scientific institution now? They look cool, but they’re not relevant to a liberal arts college. Here’s an idea. When I finally did visit Middlebury, I fell in love with the beautiful brick buildings. Why not use a colorful brick wall as the background? As you put your mouse over different bricks, you would get the same pop ups with stories and information, but in a more relevant setting. For those who like metaphors, you would also in a sense be breaking down a wall.

      2)MIDDLEBURY WITHOUT COLLEGE IS FINE. That is after all the way the current website is. As long as on the tab it still says Middlebury College and the website has a .edu, I think people will recognize they are on the right page.

      3)LET THE PEOPLE VOTE! In the end, everyone is going to have a million different of their own ideas and we will be stuck with the current “bars” idea. White Whale, what were the other designs you came up with as you brainstormed? Give the students and faculty a choice of 3-4 different designs for websites (e.g. the bars, the bricks, Zach’s design) and have a one-week voting period. I came to this page excited to see “unveiled homepage mockups” and was very disappointed to see only one version of a new homepage.

      Finally, I do just want to thank Jason and everyone at White Whale for all their hard work. Thanks also to everyone involved at Middlebury, including the people posting!

    94. Please, please, please include more campus photographs on the main webpage! Although having the stories of current students on the homepage is touching, I would rather see photographs- such as the sunset behind BiHall or the view looking up to Mead Hall. I remember as a prospective student telling my mom that I HAD to visit Middlebury despite the fact this college is 10 hours away from my own home. As shallow as it may seem, the scenic photographs of Middlebury college are what convinced me to visit Middlebury, which in turn let me realize that Middlebury is the college I want to attend. The former website informed me that Middlebury college is an instituion of higher-education located in pastoral views of Vermont.
      The webpage designed by White Whale is cool and interesting, but Daniel Whately’s idea appeals to me more.

    95. Jason,

      It’s nice to know you’re taking in all feedback. It’s not nice that you’re assuming anything negative mentioned about the site is potential trolling. This is an anonymous way to get and give feedback, let’s keep it that way.

    96. Excellent design.

      There appears to be a pinch of Google-like simplicity which works well and keeps the home page from becoming cluttered. I am impressed with White Wale’s thoughtful and innovative approach to design. Hiring an artist to design the site was a good move and reflects well on the school.

      Some thoughts…

      Streamlining the admissions process – allow prospective students to view a checklist of what has and has not been received. Same goes for financial aid (which I assume will make an appearance when you click on admissions).

      How will student organizations interact with the site? Perhaps… allow organizations to have their own pages that they can upload video to, announce events on, and use as a planning tool. This has the added benefit of illustrating the vibrancy of the campus to prospectives while inducing more students to participate in the clubs. A few leaders of each organization can be given access to page content control or it can be more of an open forum. This will provide some balance to the manicured stories on the front page.

      The purpose – the site should encapsulate the essence of Midd and provide a face – Images and stories of staff and students accomplish this well. Nice touch.

    97. The comments posted here have been extremely interesting to read. I want to reiterate the encouragement others have offered to watch the video presentation of the new design treatments in addition to looking at the pictures in this post. Many of the questions expressed here are answered there.

      Where is the link to the Directory? The search box in the upper right searches the Directory as well as the rest of the site and you can choose which resources to search if you want to narrow the scope.

      Where are the landscape photos of Vermont? When you visit the homepage one of the story boxes might be open and some of them will just have campus landscape photos. This will actually *increase* the number of landscape shots on our site, which any honest person has to admit is currently very few. While still a draft, the one interior page template we saw in the presentation had a big campus photo right at the top and that’s what you’d see when you click on one of those top-level links like Academics.

      What about links that are in our current site’s footer like bannerweb? These will be in the Quick Links section, plus the Current Students and Faculty Staff sections, which will be customizable homepages where you can set the links you want to see. Oh, also, you can get to BannerWeb by going to http://bannerweb.middlebury.edu or go/bannerweb or go/banner or go/bw. You can even create your own go shortcut to banner if you don’t want to use those. We’re not trying to hide it from you!

      A student at the presentation asked, “What does this home page offer me?” and the answer he got was that the home page might not be for him. I don’t think that’s true at all. Students will be able to feature their work and experiences at Middlebury through the stories on the home page. All you need to submit a story is 2-3 sentences for a description and a link to a blog, or photo gallery, or website, video, or whatever. Then you’ve got a permanent place on the home page. If you want to see the work I did in college on self-guided Mars rover modelling, travel to the WPI library in Worcester, submit a request and wait 24 hours for processing so you can read it in the library. This design offers an easy path for a different experience.

      Jason asked me what would really disappoint me in a new design and I told him I’d be sad if their design was the same header / footer / 2-3 columns model with never-changing stock photos of smiling students that nearly every other higher ed site uses. We have a chance with this design to get something that hasn’t been used on the web before, or if it has, certainly not within the higher ed spectrum. That’s both exciting and scary, but after seeing and using it in action I’m confident that the new features on the site will be both useable and even fun. By the way, for those wondering about usability, the bars/equalizer/books/spectrum is implemented with just CSS and JavaScript, no Flash or Silverlight, and even the earliest prototype worked well on an iPhone.

      While I agree that the design alterations posted by Daniel earlier in this comment thread as aesthetically appealing as a still image, using photos as the background for the bars would create a number of issues with a site design that’s intended to be moving and dynamic. What happens when you move the cursor to the edge of the screen which in this design is intended to move the bars like coverflow in iTunes? What happens when you expand a box? Does every bar’s background then need to shift as the box expands to show more of the panoramic image? What about the background of the now-opened box? We want to include a story in there, so we should really fill the box with a solid color so that the text is legible. Does that mean that the panoramic photo is now just on the edge of the box and if so, what fill color should we use? These are very difficult questions to answer when you want to maintain a workable, usable and accessible interface on a website that runs fast on every platform. But I’m just a web programmer, not a designer, so perhaps there’s a valid design implementation for this I’ve overlooked.

      Those who know me know that I don’t give faint praise for web design. I have to say this is one I saw just before that presentation expecting to be able to write a post as long as this filled with objections and corrections rather than defenses of the design. I think we’ve been given a rare opportunity to have a really cool website and while I’m sure I’ll have feedback for the interior pages (in fact I’ve noticed several major issues with the drafts presented), I really have none for those above other than to say, “Well done!”

      (P.S. A minor point, but middlebury.edu’s logo hasn’t included the word “College” since August of 2007, so it’s been TWO years since that change went into place. This website redesign isn’t connected to that change.)

    98. Reiterate: WATCH THE VIDEO. I would be interested to see how many of the people on this site who have complaints or flat out hate it have actually seen the video.

      ITS GOOD!!!


    99. These are very pretty counting rods. They are every bit as captivating as watching an oscilloscope or a seismograph, or maybe contemplating the wave pattern on an old TV set. They would make a great album cover for the Modern Jazz Quartet (circa 1960). Unfortunately, they also suggest that the College has no identity or character whatsoever. Perhaps the message is that we are in the sticks. If that is the intention, then we should be happy to have waved (geddit?) all that money goodbye. If not, then perhaps it’s time to send Captain Ahab out after the White Whale. Don’t call me again, Ishmael.

    100. Strongly suggest that people watch the video as it answers some of the concerns and questions e.g. can the homepage load with a great image of Middlebury landscape already showing? YES – there is even a mock-up example of what that would look like. Valid concern but looks like the solution already exists! Solid job White Whale – iTunes coverflow functionality meets Google’s ever (subtly) changing homepage.

      I strongly agree with Ian McBride’s comments above!

      Here are my current criticisms (hopefully constructive):
      1) The bars seem to close to each other. I’m sure this will be realized & fixed when you have a working version but it seems like the current set up will require some effort to scroll onto a particular bar without (accidentally) scrolling onto the bar next to it (which, with that many bars, will get frustrating). I’m sure you have GUI experts who will figure that part out.

      2) Comparison to the iTunes coverflow was made. The more you can make it like the iTunes coverflow (without totally ripping it off) the better I think. The iTunes coverflow gives you a glimpse of what else is available with the angled view of the other covers – the bars don’t give you a glimpse of what else is there until you mouse over them and even then just a header appears. What if the reveal happened on mouse over (instead of on a click)? That may get a little ridiculous with that many bars but hope you guys play with that idea. OR when the page loaded several bars would automatically reveal their images/stories in succession (esp. if they have the other stop stories of the day) OR after x seconds of inactivity stories would be revealed – just something to actually invite people in to explore. I love the exploratory feel but we need to INVITE and ENTICE people to explore.

      I agree with people who say that most people are coming to the site to find something in particular and the MUCH more prominent navigation and the promise of a better functioning search satisfy that. The exploration aspect of this proposed homepage will have the added benefit of leading users to features of Middlebury they had never known about and engaging with Middlebury (online) way more than they currently do. The stats on our current subpages are pathetic at best in most cases as nothing is driving them to those pages. The new homepage can drive people wherever we want and if the content is good (which is really up to each dept. not White Whale) then people will spend way more time on our site. The more anyone engages with this website the better.

    101. AND for prospective students a website that on the homepage invites you to check out diverse and interesting stories on Middlebury students, alumni, faculty and staff seems like it could be a major decision factor. Sure you need the basic info on the application process, departments, tuition, bla bla bla. Once you get past all that and someone is trying to pick between Midd and our peers who also have great academics, professors, facilities, sports teams, arts etc, you need to show what it really means to be at Middlebury. Nothing online shows that better than real stories on what the students, alumni, staff etc are doing. And a story gives the great scenic photos some context instead of just “hey, check out this cool photo”.

    102. How someone “feels” about the new website is irrelevant and unimportant. The question the community should consider is how well the new website reflects, articulates, and depicts the institution overall. Answers to this question will be more illuminating than whether I like colored bars or not.

    103. As a Midd grad and now a staff member, I think the proposed Web site fits well with the current mission of the College, as a creative/innovative place that encourages individual and cooperative learning. During the presentation by White Whale, the homepage was explained as an opening glimpse of the College, an initial impression, or something to make you wait just a minute to see all of the beautiful pictures of campus, information about campus life and academics, etc., that will be contained within the site.

      It seems to me that this is an interesting approach in a world where we want instant gratification and ease of use. I think this novel approach is uncomfortable for us, as we want all of the information we can get out hands on right away and at a click of a button. I applaud White Whale for their efforts to challenge us with a new way of seeing that has the power to be a really communicative tool for getting the College’s mission and message out there.

      With that said… when we open a magazine or we visit the Google homepage, for instance, we aren’t immediately bombarded by a plethora of links or navigation tools. It’s a simple page or screen that allows us to see what we want to explore further or get where we need to go. The proposed homepage adds intrigue and has the ability to give a viewer a sense of the myriad academic programs/activities/sports programs/internships/faculty-student mentoring/research that goes on at Middlebury. Sure, a prospective applicant might not sit down and read through all of the stories contained in the equalizer or waveform, but I will argue that seeing such a wide range of interesting and engaging stories will have an impact, even if subtle or unconscious. The interior pages will house all of the information and photos galore that will largely inform the prospective student and general visitor to the College’s page.

      I also think Communications will play a fundamental role in utilizing the waveform. The members of that team are extremely diligent and put much thought into what the audience of the Web site should view or made aware of any given day. The ability for the homepage to change daily will encourage visitors to come back often and perhaps be drawn to stories and photos that otherwise would not have had an impact.

      I will admit that my first impression of the waveform, without understanding the usability behind it, was that it was some random form of abstract art (and I was an art history major, who loves minimalism, so I was intrigued…) Digging deeper, however, I do believe it will be a powerful and adaptable tool for setting the scene for what is to come behind this cover that represents all that is Middlebury. At a place where innovation, creativity, and higher learning are paramount, the ability to think outside of the box and appreciate a design that will set our Web site apart from run-of-the-mill sites at other Colleges is needed. Why not be different and hip? The site could have a lasting impression on a prospective (if they are our main audience, which I argue they are not) by daring to be different.

    104. Thank you, everyone, for all of this feedback, we hope you keep it coming. Ben Molberger, our LIS Intern assigned to the WebMakeover project, will be available tomorrow, from 2-4pm EST, via chat if you would like to ask questions live. He’ll be at the following addresses:

      AIM- MiddLISRep
      MSN- MiddLISRep@live.com

      If you would like to send annonymous feedback, you can email Mike Roy at mdroy@middlebury.edu.

      Again, thank you, and we look forward to hearing more.

    105. Please remember that the website serves four primary audiences: the faculty and staff, alums, prospies, AND current students. This new design seems to relegate three out of those four to the background. Whilst I understand the need to attract new students, doing so at the expense of the current and past Midd communities makes no sense. Perhaps if the present students, faculty, staff, and alums (not to mention the town) shared the wave with the intriguing prospie bait, a better balance could be struck without sacrificing the design.
      Also, please add the “College” part of our name back – sufficiently few people know who we are without our help.

    106. To make it easier for everyone coming and going to be able to see answers to all questions, the chat has been moved to:


      Go there any time between 2 and 4 today and I will do my best to answer your questions/comments/concerns.

    107. Bravo for getting away from busy intense face page where everybody / thing is competing for attention. What other links can be taken away without loosing the message? Too bad MC didn’t succeed in developing a logo/ branding image. It would add to initial impact and be useful to create a consistent visual thread with affiliated sites and University publications. (Maybe if you knockoff the maple leaf stem and leave the rest it would still work.) Also tag line like motto “knowledge and virtue” (maybe a little achaic) or the campaign slogan “liberal arts — global action” could be coopted to create a quick and positive story.

      As a frequent visitor to the site, I am concerned about loosing quick and easy access to what is new on the site and what is particularly timely….Maybe this will be picked up through News and Events links…While I do
      like the wave and the stories; how can you tell when new ones are added or whether there is something really attention-worthy that visitors attention should be drawn to? I think you want to figure out how to invite people to keep coming back to check out what is new and have a ‘conversation’ with the site not just peruse stories.

      It is hard to give up the pretty pictures on the first page, and as currently presented the site is a little flat.
      It lacks a clear sense / impression of the physical place that is Middlebury….Maybe some simple lines / design elements evocative of the “strength of the hills’ could be added to the background to add some depth and make clear to folks they aren’t in Kansas (anymore.)

      I have heard it said that if students actually visit Middlebury they are much more likely to apply and attend….So, how can you invite visitors on for a really, really high quality tour of the place? A couple of years back I think MC tried to improve that experience but I don’t think they have been very successful. The google maps and video tours are a start…but this deserves more attention (and probably $$) and maybe a clear point of access on revised site. (Show not tell.)

      A few final quibbles….where is science and research? It is all arts and athletics…(We are trying to get away fom the impression that Midd is a language / women’s
      english school..Still the focus in most College Guides although not supported by what students actually major in.) Move athletic and arts down to second
      line, since they are more “about” type topics….Move “Environment and Sustainbility” up to first line..Iafter “Middlebury International”. since it is more of a cross cut mission and program. Still confused by what “Midd Lab is? Make the Programs and and Affiliates a little more prominent at bottom to continue to elevate objective of One Middlebury…They are a big part of what make the
      college unique…I realize it adds more words but suggest Bread Loaf School of English and Writers Conference and C.V. Starr School Abroad

      Look forward to the evolution….(or is that revolution?)

    108. As a newcomer to campus I don’t possess the deep insights that many have about what Midd. means or how to share that with the world. I really appreciate that you’ll make sure the site is disability accessible. I just wanted to make two plugs that didn’t seem to appear yet on the blogs:

      1. Offering an option that translates all the written material on the home page into the languages we teach might catch people’s attention and reinforce our global/language strengths

      2. Of particular importance is the issue of diversity (broadly defined). I appreciate that the stories of students and other Middlebury members may reflect some of our diversity but most colleges that seriously commit to promoting an inclusive, diverse community showcase this more. In my experience, prospective students, staff, and faculty look for concrete messages that a college is welcoming and intentional in its efforts to promote diversity. Adding a link on the homepage that explicitly points to diversity at Middlebury, and using this as a frame for the many assets we have for those interested in diversity issues, sends an important message-to people already at Midd. and to those we’d like to join us.

    109. I like the way it looks. To be honest I didn’t use the main website’s homepage too much while I was there.

      I had the webmail screen set as my homepage, and occasionally I used the directory or looked at the library services page to help with research.

      I noticed alot of bitterness and debate here about target audiences (selling the college to prospective students vs. serving current ones).

      What if we had a separate version of the page that current students used? A more utilitarian service based page, rather than one focused on aesthetics? Or perhaps a very direct link from the home page that says CURRENT STUDENTS and logs you into the basic, students only, utilities based section?

    110. I really like this clean, vibrant design and I trust our Web visitors to not immediately leave if they don’t see mountains or smiling students. In fact, I think visitors will be richly rewarded as they quickly discover the beauty shots of engaged students, beautiful campus, and Vermont landscape in the context of an academic setting, rather than the randomly displayed photos without captions that appear on our current home page. Like Erin (above), I believe this design reflects the kind of innovative and creative thinking that will set us apart.

    111. With all due respect to the above commentor, you have highlighted the most important problem and missed its significance. The website’s two most important visitor cohorts are prospective students and current students. Prospective students learn about the colleges they might apply to by visiting their websites. The web is this generations preferred medium: quick, easy, and comfortable. It allows for quick decisions and impressions to be made. Visiting the new site, they will indeed leave quickly when they do not see mountains or smiling students!! Prospective students are looking for a quick impression of what students and the campus are like. Both are MISSING from the website. This is an absurd misjudgment on the part of the college and the design team. That an image of the college emerges only when you click something like directions is ridiculous. Instead we give precedence to a shapeless, uninspiring corporate waveform, whose multiple click through, rollover and see what you find interface will be slow, limited, and obtuse.

      As for current students, we seek quick access to a few items, many of which are missing from this mock up. There are no buttons for email, the directory, or bannerweb. Although these are quickly accessed with the go/ system on campus, the website’s homepage is the main portal for off campus acccess. Having to access “quick links” first through a button that says quick links means that they are not quick. This is obvious. That the college would spend time and money, given its current budgetary crisis, on a superficial makeover that does not improve the functionality of the website but may make it worse is repulsive to the student body, their parents, donors, and prospective students who see their money wasted and services that matter disappear.

    112. Truthfully, the most beautiful pictures I have found of the campus I saw on Facebook Class of 2013 webpage.

      This said, I don’t understand the hostility between perspective students and current users (faculty.etc). It is my understanding that there will be some options to personalize the home page once you have an ID number or something similar.

      But as the current homepage stands, I don’t see any outstanding pictures of the campus and the smiling faces could be any campus in the country… so I don’t see this new site as “losing” anything. Plus, as has been pointed out, while it is unfortunate that there is not a clear logo for the school the word college hasn’t been on the website for quite some time having nothing to do with this process. I rather liked reading the history of the town and the college and find that the singular use of the word Middlebury is very appropriate.

      Also, while I will learn soon enough, I am sure. I think Middlebury alone speaks a great deal to town/gown relations. I could be totally misled but it was my understanding (and what I witnessed at a Lax game in the spring) that the relationship for the most part is a positive one. This is definitely NOT the case on many campuses. In fact, some are quite hostile. I see nothing wrong with promoting that aspect of the school.

      But what I think most people are forgetting (and whether you disagree or agree), is that this is a portal for ALL affiliates as well. So taking pause to see where you really want to go will be fabulous. And maxing the capabilities of the search function will go a long way to help this too.

    113. Jesse,

      I’m curious as to how you can judge the functionality of the soon-to-be completely revamped web site based on the proposed homepage designs.

      It seems akin to judging how a car will handle on the road based on a picture in a magazine.

    114. I am concerned about this new website for two reasons. First off, I am not at all sure what the waveform has to do with middlebury. Despite being an interesting, modern design, I see no particular reason for it to be there. If the waveform is going to be the basis of the site, could we at least have the “expanded vermont footer” be permanent.

      My other problem is the reliance on individual stories. I’ve looked at many other college websites, and they all do the same thing: they have disparate individual stories about people doing somewhat interesting things. It’s annoying.

      There are amazing people at every institution. They all have good stories and do interesting things. I do not believe that the stories themselves do anything to sell the school. (Which is, of course, one of the purposes of the website.)

      I understand the appeal of stories. It’s part of the desire to “show” how great middlebury is and not just “tell” people. I accept that there will be stories–it’s what people want. To that end, if there are going to be stories they need to be stories that back up specific goals or strengths of the school. For example, make the stories more specifically about internationalism, or sustainability…etc. They should be organized and classified for people–a way to direct them through the site.

      Overall, I think the site needs to do a better job of communicating values. The college is greater than the sum of its individuals. Don’t assume that people can pull the “essence of middlebury” out of two dozen random stories.

      That being said, it is an innovative new design that is much better than most college homepages.

    115. Jesse: the cost of doing the web makeover is not in the front page design, but rather in improving its pre-historic funcationality, I hope you are not advocating that the College improve the funcationality but not the design of the front page, or that no improvement is needed, or should not be done because of financial circumstances..

      Most people woudl agree there is no question that the website needs an update in terms of what it can do for many constituencies, so it is disingenuous to point to the current financial situation to beat up on the College for trying to improve the website because you hate the design concept under discussion.

      And, as MJ asked, how can you comment with such certitude on the functionality, or lack of the functionality, based on the design of the front page? Perhaps waiting to see how it will work would be wise.

    116. Beautiful, elegant, simple, this will do nothing to help actual navigation as much as give a sophisticated, compact splash-screen presentation that the college deserves.

      I love the idea but I hope White Whale’s recommendations go much deeper into the website structure than this – because the layout and easy accessibility of specific information is what will matter to the average second- or third-year Midd student.

    117. The current website is horribly stiff and boring, but I think this design swings too far in the other direction. If this were a school for the visual arts, it would be good, but there needs to be a middle ground.

    118. Well — here’s another comment about the design after thinking about it some more.

      I realize that I might be missing something or misunderstanding how the web site will work. If so, my apologies. But the following is my reaction to how I imagine it will work.

      If I understand it correctly, people will click on one of the colored bars and get a “story” that expands out.

      Are there any other web sites that work like this? White Whale’s own web site doesn’t. Neither do any of the portfolio examples they show. In all those examples, there is either a graphic or text that gives you a pretty good idea what will happen — what kind of information you will get — when you click in a particular spot.

      With colored bars, you are pretty much just involved in a random process of clicking — maybe you like one shade of color better than another, or maybe your mouse cursor just happens to be in a particular spot, and then you click and you find a story that you are somewhat or barely or very or not interested in.

      I went to White Whale’s Kenyon College site, which works similarly to our mockup but there is a photo mosaic instead of bars, so at least you have graphics that give you a clue — if not certain knowledge — about what will happen when you click one of the photos.

      There was a picture of a butterfly, so I clicked it, thinking maybe there’s a nature photography exhibit at the college. When I clicked, it said “So and so sent us this picture of a butterfly.” Then there is a link to their environmental center.

      I don’t know — it seems like a really indirect and kind of random way to find the environmental center. Maybe the point is I wasn’t looking for the environmental center but found it and that’s cool. But now I’m thinking about butterflies so I go to Google and find that Haynesville is the butterfly capital of Louisiana.

      Then I go back to Kenyon College and click on a picture of a dog in the mosaic, and it says “Most dogs agree: Kenyon students give the best hugs.” Oooooookay….

      I don’t find this to be a satisfactory way to get to know the college.

      What I’d love to see is a more intelligent web site that learns, from a viewer’s behavior, what his or her interests are and starts to provide information based on that knowledge. (Sort of the way Internet radio stations can create new playlists based upon your previous behavior.) I.e. a student goes to the Chemsitry department, and then starts to notice interesting stories about Chemistry projects by faculty and students. In other words, the web site doesn’t just respond to a viewer’s clicks, but actually begins to anticipate his or her interests.

      But it seems to me the random bar clicks would be going in the opposite direction.

    119. Re: Peter

      With colored bars, you are pretty much just involved in a random process of clicking — maybe you like one shade of color better than another, or maybe your mouse cursor just happens to be in a particular spot, and then you click and you find a story that you are somewhat or barely or very or not interested in.

      As you mouse-over the colored bars a title and caption will appear above and below the bar before you click on it — as shown above and below the <a href=’http://www.whitewhale.net/hello/middlebury/home/go.php?image=ilikesoccer’second screen shot and described this way:

      When a user moves his or her mouse over the waveform, they’ll see titles above each vertical bar corresponding to the story the bar contains. When a bar is clicked, it will open horizontally to show the story; the user can either go from there into the site to read the story, or can close the bar and continue browsing stories in the waveform. The user can also scroll the waveform from left to right, up to the number of available stories. In this way, the new homepage can accommodate any number of stories comfortably.

      What I’d love to see is a more intelligent web site that learns, from a viewer’s behavior, what his or her interests are and starts to provide information based on that knowledge…. ….But it seems to me the random bar clicks would be going in the opposite direction.

      The way I see it, the bookshelf/waveform/coverflow-thing is not a navigational tool to be used to find information. Rather, it is a place to collect and share interesting stories and projects. If a visitor wants to find any particular piece of information then the search (above) and links (below) will guide them to that information.

      While it might not apply to the bookshelf/waveform/coverflow-thing, the idea of anticipating a person’s desires is an interesting one. I doubt it is something we can build into the site by January, but something like Amazon or Netflix’s recommendation engines would be a really neat long-term development if such technology becomes easier for a small organization to implement.

    120. The new website design looks AWESOME. I can’t wait to see how it comes out! I’m especially impressed that we will have a website that doesn’t look so normal. I looked at the links for the other schools that White Whale has done (Williams, Bowdoin, etc). The fact that impressed me most about the new site is that it isn’t enclosed. I feel like most websites are confined inside of boxes. But Middlebury is an out of the box kind of place. I think the design fits the profile of our campus perfectly. It’s awesome… I really like the new layout.

      Keep up the good work!

    121. Oh, one quick thing that would be nice to add would be a way to tie the new personalized website section into BannerWeb, Segue, SnowLeopard, the Classes server, MidCat, and Teacher’s webpages so you have all the resources you need for your classes accessible in one nice convenient spot!

      I don’t know too much about computers and logistically that might be difficult, but that would be SO HELPFUL! Just a thought!

    122. I think that a nice aerial photograph of Middlebury (that changes with the seasons) should be an essential element of the new website.

      just the equalizer would be a little too sterile…. What makes Middlebury so special is the landscape and the beautiful campus we have!


    123. The homepage needs photos.

      When people, relatives, friends and perspective students look up Middlebury on the internet their first impression will be those “colored bars.”

      We have one of the most beautiful campuses in the country. Why not show that to people on the homepage instead of making them search for it?

    124. Ok…
      Love the modern design. It is clean and efficient.
      Now, here are my concerns.

      My family is from Nebraska, a midwestern state, where basically no one has heard of Middlebury…Many think Middlebury is in Connecticut. Therefore, could we please either add College to our name or add the college seal? We are after all one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious liberal arts colleges…a little tradition never hurt anyone…plus, the seal is non-religious (at least I think) and I have never found anyone who has been offended by the seal.

      So, skip the word “college” in the header, or bring back the seal…but please don’t skip both. Over 90% of Middlebury students are not from Vermont…..

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