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New-look debuting Monday

March 8, 2013

The look of the Beloit College website is changing.

On Sunday evening, the college’s web services team will begin the process of bringing the new design online. Visitors familiar with the current website design will notice that the site will now extend to the edges of the screen, that there are many more visual elements present on the main page, there is more white space throughout the website, and no rounded corners (assuming you even noticed those before).

A story planned for Monday’s Terrarium will offer more details about the change. In the meantime, here are a few things to know about the new website design and the people behind it—many of them Beloit students.   

A few things to know about the new website (from the Office of Communications and Marketing):

Nothing is missing, save a few main page links

While the look of pages across the site will change come Monday, the content hasn’t been altered.

What did change during the redesign was the main navigation bar. The Office of Communications and Marketing (of which the web services team is a part) removed several links that were getting very little weekly traffic, if any.

The search bar will follow you

Another thing you’ll notice on Monday is that search feature is omnipresent. Wherever you go, whatever you do, the top navigation bar will remain top of screen so the search bar is always readily accessible.

The timing was intentional

Says Jason Hughes, director of communications and marketing at the college: “We picked the week after spring break so that we could catch many of you (faculty, staff and students) with fresh eyes. We hope you will let us know if you see things that look wrong or aren’t working appropriately. We’ve created a page  where you can report those concerns. You’ll also notice that we’re outfitting the site with a temporary alert bar that points you to that form and other details.” will be ready for anything (tablet, phone, laptop, etc.)

The new site has been designed and configured so that it naturally adapts and changes to suit every screen, be it a phone or a desktop monitor. (The Terrarium previous story that announced this coming redesign included a nice graphic that illustrated this.) 

We’ll be watching, testing, and adapting

Today, the best way to see if a website works is to watch and see what users do when they’re on the site. “We can now do that daily and even in real time,” says Melissa Dix, web and new media director. “By going live we will learn what works and what doesn’t simply by watching to see what our visitors and our community members do and don’t do on the new-look website.” Expect to see a few things develop subtly and swiftly as a result of that attention and your activity.

This is very different

The redesigned website has room to breathe (white space) and is easier to read. It has a subtle texture and some handmade elements. It is also very different—not just from what we have had at Beloit, but from the sites of so many other colleges and universities. And, even more distinctive, it has some pretty fantastic content—much of it student-produced.

“Our goal with this new design isn’t just to do a better job telling people about Beloit. It’s to be better at showing them Beloit. This design, I think, does that exceptionally well,” says Hughes.  

But that’s just the beginning.

“We also want to invite more participation—from prospective students, community members, employees, and alumni,” he says. “We have been testing technologies and approaches—all of them web-based—to help us do that. In the next several weeks you’ll see us try some new things on the site… and on other college web properties.”

This too shall pass and change

The beauty of the web is that if it doesn’t work wonderfully or well, it can change. And quickly. In the days and months ahead the web team will learn more about what’s working with potential students and what isn’t, and hear about problems internal users may have finding favorite content. They will adjust their strategy, if necessary, to answer any such issues.

It took a village—of staff and students

Melissa Dix, web and new media director, and Amanda Frisbee, web designer and developer, get all of the applause for this design and the thinking, number crunching, and research that led to it. Using Reason, our open source content management system, and a lot of long nights and bush-whacking web searches, they have produced something very distinctive and beautiful—and in record time.

But they were not alone. Students Bailey Davis and Grace Gockel have been acting as the web team’s artists-in-residence, producing prints, video shorts, and photos for the site (and they’re just getting started). Kate Atkinson and Sasha Debevec-McKenney supplied early inspiration for the new design and produced some of our best new content while Dustin Paluch and Sam Spyrison, both of them student web developers, have been instrumental in getting the site up and running. Brooke Kahl developed and produced a half dozen new student and faculty videos that are featured prominently, Jishnu Guha has several videos in the can that we’ll unveil in the weeks ahead, and Courtney Yates contributed the portraits that make our latest Our Beloit student features stand out.

And then there’s Fred (Burwell), the library staff, the museums, the Office of International Education and others, whose regular features in the Terrarium are among the most popular content on the website for both external and internal users. Due to their popularity and their relevance to students on the college hunt, that content will now appear across the website. Also instrumental was the support of the web committee, the daily efforts of Lynn Vollbrecht, Terrarium editor, and Hilary Dickinson, communications specialist, as well as Associate Director of Admissions Trevor Johnson, who shot almost every one of the new photos appearing on the site within the last year.