What to look for in Home 4

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 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.

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.

What You Can Do

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.

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.

Acknowledgements

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.

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, July 10, 2009

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