By Jessica Flannery
Last year, two web design and branding firms surveyed potential users of the College’s website, from prospective students to alumni. They found that the current website is not presenting a strong public face for the College. When asked which attributes were important in deciding to come to Grinnell, only 4.9 percent of respondents cited an aesthetically pleasing website.
The College, along with the two firms, Rogue Element and Promet Source, is now developing a new website, expected to go live in early 2013.
“The main function of a college’s home website is for outside audiences, especially prospective students and alumni,” said Jim Reische, Vice President for Communications.
A main goal of the new website is connecting to alumni. Currently, alumni have a separate webpage called The Loggia, located at loggia.grinnell.edu.
“We have heard from alums that they want to be a part of this community,” Reische said. “They want to know what students are doing. They want to know what faculty is doing. They want to mentor students, offer them advice and job connections.”
The plan for the new website is to bring the alumni pages into the same web address as the rest of the College and give them the same aesthetics and structure in order to reincorporate alumni back into the online community.
The new website will also address how the College can better advertise to prospective students. Data from recent surveys by the market research firm Art & Science found that prospective students view the College’s Iowa location as its biggest drawback.
The website will try to change prospective students’ perceptions of Iowa and the Midwest.
“We plan to position our location as an advantage or an asset… Iowa is at the heart of agriculture and locally-produced food … and, as a state, is much more culturally diverse than people from other places realize,” Reische said.
One of the most noteworthy aspects of the web renovation is the create-your-own experience and customizable user accounts.
“When people come to the website, they can create a login that will allow them to choose which topics they want to appear on the home page,” Reische said.
This login feature is optional and available on a spectrum. The new homepage can be as customizable as the user prefers.
A slideshow posted on PioneerWeb shows images of what the new website might look like. It would have links to much more content on the homepage. Examples in the slideshow’s simulation range from a feature on a student’s community service in Lesotho to the Titular Head video of Alex Krempely ’13 (identified as “Student John Doe” in the example) dancing with a shake weight.
The next steps of the renovation process involve user testing. Comments and suggestions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or to the web renovation blog, http://www.grinnell.edu/renovation.