Redesigned College Web Site Gives Easier Access to More Information

Although the World Wide Web is only a few years old, Mount Holyoke's site is already in its third generation. A greatly expanded and redesigned site debuted this week at "Each incarnation has made a quantum leap, improved as we learn more about using this new medium," according to Cheri Cross, director of communications.

She and LITS Director Susan Perry oversaw the site's reconceptualization and consulted with students, faculty, staff, and administrators during the project's seven-month development. The top-level pages were written, designed, and produced by the On-campus Information Systems Operations group, which includes members of LITS and the Office of Communications. OIS members are: Michael Crowley, Dan Wilga, Tim Toffoli, Susan Perry, Sujeong Shin, Cheri Cross, Kathleen Norton, Mary McMahon, Jeannie Jones, and Fred Kass.

On the main home page, viewers will still be greeted by a photo of the College. but now users will have immediate access to ten categories of College information (the old home page offered only three choices). These choices include "Curriculum and Faculty," "College Affiliations," "Campus and Facilities," "Admission," "Alumnae," and "Athletics." Viewers can also see a campus map; get information on local weather, news, and events; or search the web site for specific topics. On the left side of the page will be a continually updated "What's News" section that will take advantage of the Web medium's capacity for immediacy.

"Behind" the ten main pages are some 2,000 pages of information, maintained by individuals all over campus. Content varies widely, from faculty-designed materials for eighteen courses and personal homepages to the text of notable campus speeches and recent faculty publications, admission applications, and the week's residence hall menus. Some links don't lead anywhere yet, but that's because the system was built with room to expand even farther as campus needs change.

"We wanted a site that would take us into the future," explains Perry. Use of College sites has increased ten-fold in the last year alone, so designers took their best guess about what users would want in the near future. "We know now, as we did not when the last version was developed two years ago, how much of the College's academic and administrative work needs support from the Web," says Perry. For example, the LITS pages now include service request forms so viewers can renew a book, request an interlibrary loan, reserve multimedia equipment, or ask a reference question while on the Web.

Beyond serving as a campus information vehicle, Cross says the newly designed site also "reflects the College as an intellectual, sophisticated, and relevant contemporary institution" to off-campus audiences. Perry describes the new site as "a good messenger to the world for MHC."

Future plans include adding sound and video applications, having five photos that change frequently on all top-level pages, and developing a "tool kit" so campus users can easily design their own pages to match the look of the site's top-level pages. "We in communications and LITS are eager to have the Internet as a primary means of communication," noted Cross, "a transition that will occur over the next year. Web technology makes it possible to use the Internet to connect with the outside world, while using the Intranet on campus. We want to develop fully the potential of both."