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University News

U. plans a makeover for its main Web site

By
Senior Staff Writer
Friday, March 5, 2010

For the first time in four years, the University plans to redesign its Web site’s main pages, said Vice President for Public Affairs and University Relations Marisa Quinn, who is spearheading the redesign team.

The goal of the project is to architect a more accessible and dynamic Web site, Quinn said, not necessarily to improve the site’s aesthetic design. People will have varying opinions on the look of the new page, she said.

Brown’s current Web site, designed in collaboration with Pentagram Design, Inc., is somewhat restricting in its potential to communicate the University’s character and mission, said Director of Web Communications Scott Turner.

Though Web developers at Brown’s peer institutions have praised Brown’s “unique”design, the architecture of the site’s main page supports only 10 content windows and a limited number of links, Turner said. A simple link to the University’s Facebook or Twitter page on the homepage, for instance, would require an existing link to be removed, Quinn said. The site’s latest version, scheduled to launch in Fall 2010, will support more functions and interactive multimedia, she said.

A primary goal of the project is “to showcase Brown more effectively to key constituencies and better articulate Brown’s position within higher education,” according to the redesign team’s blog. Quinn identified one of the “key constituencies” to be prospective international applicants, who rely more on online resources to learn about Brown than students from the U.S. do.

The project is a collaboration between the Office of Public Affairs and University Relations, Computing and Information Services and an external consulting firm. The redesign team, which began meeting in January, is incorporating feedback from current and prospective students, alums and faculty who participated in focus groups, Turner said.

After researching more than 10 firms, the University selected mStoner, Inc., whose clients include Northeastern University School of Law, Princeton’s undergraduate admissions office and Yale Law School, according to its Web site. The firm was chosen based on its proposal, Quinn said, adding that costs were also a consideration.

One of the alums involved in the project is About.com’s former CEO, Scott Meyer ’91, who also led the design of the New York Times’ Web site. Though he was a public policy concentrator at Brown, Meyer said he “spent a lot of time in CIS” and would seize “any opportunity” to help his alma mater, especially when his professional experience is useful.

Brown trails the other schools in the Ivy League “by any analysis of Web statistics,” including the number of unique visitors each month, Meyer said. “When the Web site comes out, it will be dramatically better.”

At this stage it is difficult to assess what the new Web site will look like — but it will be distinctive. The new flagship Web site may incorporate certain features from the homepages of various schools, but there’s no model in mind, Turner said.

“We certainly didn’t say that we want our Web site to look like that of school X or Y,” Meyer said. “Brown is Brown.”

It’s important that the new homepage communicates Brown’s unique brand, Meyer said. “One of the tremendous strengths of Brown is that the brand experience is deeply personal.”

 

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