As you may know, we’ve been working diligently over the past few months to redevelop Bates’ home site. We’ve dubbed this the “Home 4” project because three versions came before and there will be more to come.

Clickable content prototype - July 2009

What we’re doing

The scope for this project is an overhaul (not just a redesign) of the top-level pages of www.bates.edu, where we need to make an excellent first impression for our first-time visitors. (We’re looking forward to helping update department and office sites as well, but that will be in the scope of a subsequent project.)

Please read on. However, if you really don’t want to read the whole story, take a look at the clickable content prototype right now! Don’t forget to click on the “interface design” in the top bar to see the appearance.

Preliminary layout (ISITE/JFC) - April 2009

We’re building upon the 2008 listening sessions, online vision and planning, meetings with senior staff, feedback from content partners, strategic insight from our respected agency partner, and all of the documents we could find that capture the essence of Bates and the programs that demonstrate the College’s mission, vision, and values. You may learn (much!) more about the project here on our blog and from a March article in The Bates Student.

Home 4 inside page concept (JFC) - January 2009, based on the Permasite project - 2006-07

Nevertheless, we have more work to do, and now is a great time for your feedback. I’ve created an early black-and-white prototype (based on our Permasite project) which should give you an idea of where we’re going. It is incomplete — the text, images, media, and design will receive more attention over the coming weeks — but my goal is to provide you with a basic context of our future site.

What you can do

Please take a look, and then send your initial comments — via the online form or e-mail — by Friday, July 24. (Of course, I’m always happy to chat in person!) This is an evolving process, so your feedback will truly influence our subsequent fine-tuning.

I am asking that you refrain from sharing this access beyond the Bates community, just because we only have one chance to make a good first impression, and I’d like to save that for the final launch!

If you have already provided feedback, thank you. If you still see something that needs improvement though, please send it along.

Acknowledgments

Thanks to Kelly Kerner for sponsoring this project, Bill Hiss for transferring a full-time staff position so we can sustain this work over time, and Gene Wiemers for his help allowing us to raise the bar in online communications.

If you haven’t already looked at the prototype, now is the time. Afterwards, come back here for a deeper look. Don’t forget to click on the “interface design” in the top bar to see the appearance.

Now, a deeper look

Now that you’ve looked around the prototype, let me point a couple of features we’ve included.  If  you did not see them on your initial viewing, please read on, then go back and check them out.

First impressions

We know from research that we only have 20-30 interactive seconds to make a good first impression. Rather than simply asking visitors to click around, we added a call to action tab, “Explore. Connect. Transform: New to Bates?” which opens a panel to tell a short story, with text, images, and video. Are you ready for Bates? How will you change and make an impact? What journey are you on: to become a student? member of the faculty? donor? Links then draw the visitor to deeper content.

Showing a Bates timeline

Another new feature of the home page is for primary navigation, which we’ve made visible to clearly present the Bates experience, from initial awareness and admission, to academics, through campus life, and then extending to life as an alum and out to the world.

Up-to-date dashboards

Within the primary navigation, we’ve started developing dashboards to present timely updates about academics, civic engagement, and more. Our maps, directions, and tour page holds a general location map, the new campus map, and a panoramic campus tour.

Second impressions

Back on the home page, we’re reinforcing the lively intellectual and social nature of campus life by making accessible a greater variety of spotlights, stories, and media. In all cases, deeper exploration brings visitors to our Bates Views blog, which brings together a rich collection of content created by Media Relations over the years, now organized by topics and keywords.

Every page is a home page

At the bottom of every page in the home site, we’ve included a footer that provides context for people who may arrive deep in the site from search results. In essence, every page is an entry page, and a large footer is an emerging convention to introduce Bates and provide actions, such as connecting with our curated social media services, subscribing to stories of interest, and joining the Bates community as student, employee, contributor.

Go inside Bates

So, by now, you’ve probably wondered: but what about Offices, directories, and all the links in the Hot list menu? The listening sessions confirmed research: from the home page, people first want to get an overall sense of the school, or answer specific questions about people, places, programs, and procedures. Then, they want to look around more specific offices and services. Of course, we current members of the Bates community want to get quickly to those resources we need in order to navigate our lives here. So, click on the “Inside Bates” tab and “A-Z index,” to see a superpowered quick links list.

(Several features in the prototype are not backwardly compatible to Internet Explorer 6.)

There’s a lot more to see, but these are a few pointers to help you explore more deeply into Home 4.

Jay Collier

9 Comments

  1. new website looks terrific. Love the new colors!!!!!!

  2. I love the new design. Its more informative and aesthetically pleasing as similar colleges.

  3. Like:
    “first impressions” cool interface
    the whole “international” feel

    What could change: Categories under professor huges are a bit cluttered; kind of an eyesore. When I went to other school’s websites I always liked side bars or even horizontal ones that “unfolded” when you ran your mouse over them

    also we have a very nice insignia that could serve nicely somewhere here….

  4. Thanks for your comments so far, online and off!

    I’ll be pulling them all together into a new post by the end of the week.

    Keep commenting!

  5. Let’s get more videos on the site, especially from students of color, highlighting academics, activities and L/A engagement.

  6. it looks so much better! i really like the clean, sharp layout. i agree with the idea of the bates insignia.

  7. The new design is certainly a breath of fresh air! Nice job on the design so far.

    The improved footer was a very intelligent idea, as well as the new navigation elements. I like Javascript in the menus and in the “Inside Bates” link on the top of the page.

    There’s still a long ways to go in terms of adding color, images, gradients, etc. but this is certainly a step in the right direction.

    One suggestion that I have is to create an online forum (possibly moderated by Bates Students/Admissions Staff) where prospective applicants, students, and alumni could communicate with each other. I think that this kind of involvement and interaction would help people learn more about the college and allow prospective applicants to directly interact with the student body. There are many free (PHPBB) and paid (VBulletin, IPB) forum solutions available.

    My only other suggestion would be to spend less time configuring the new website to be backwards compatible w/ IE6 (which we all know is a nightmare) and more time implementing features that users with new, standards-compliant browsers will enjoy.

    Thanks and keep up the good work,

    Jake Sherman
    Class of 2013

  8. Keep it simple. That is one of the things I most like about the current website. It is easy to navigate and doesn’t take over the entire screen. Sometimes less is more.

  9. Overall it’s a brave new look. Two comments: a)on my Firefox browser the page goes down just to the bottom of the six major areas, leaving only the scroll bar as a clue that there’s a whole lot more content “below the fold.” b)Without clicking on it, I didn’t know what “The Quad” was for. If you add just a couple of words, like “Gateways and Resources within Bates”, that might alert “internal” users that that’s where you can get to offices, depts., etc.


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  1. [...] Ethan Dahlin Magoon, who took on the interface design in April. After releasing several prototypes to the campus community, W3Markup did the base theme coding and Ethan expanded it to dozens of [...]

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