The Lawrence University website contains a vast amount of information. Much of this information is immensely useful, but difficult to find.The time has come to revise the website design with a stronger focus on user-friendliness for students, the predominant audience for the site.
Such a revamp was promised last autumn, but as far as the websurfers can see, the WWW Steering Committee has not yet addressed the problems of the outdated web page.
A little over one year ago, the committee heard eight different proposals to deal with the website, which remains unchanged.
Currently, the front page of the website includes Freshman Studies study guides, an announcement of President Warch’s retirement, information about the convocation, and even a link to the “Construction Webcam.”
The steering committee’s purposes in redesigning the site were to
1. “improve usability
2. update the look
3. better serve our primary audiences:
1. Prospective Students
2. Current students, faculty, and staff
3. Alumni, especially younger alumni (within the
last 5-10 years)
4. Other groups, including news and media repre-
sentatives, colleagues at other institutions, fam ilies of current students, employers, and the local community.
4. have a site that is as nearly comprehensive as we can
5. a site that is designed, not assembled piecemeal “
Prospective students definitely need to feel comfortable surfing the Lawrence site. But, then, what about current students?
The “For LU students” segment of the website is cluttered. Priority should go to the course schedule, which, from an academic point of view, is the single most important feature of the website, since its information cannot be accessed any other way.
“Find.Lawrence.edu” is all but hidden on the site. Many students are probably not even aware of this feature, which supplies student phone numbers and email addresses to users who have logged in.
Food service menus are similarly buried. As petty as this may seem, the choice between Downer and Lucinda’s is one of utmost daily importance to many Lawrentians.
LUCC publishes its minutes on its website (last year’s are up), and these minutes supply useful information for understanding new campus rules and regulations. However, the LUCC is listed as just another “Campus Organization,” alongside other clubs and Greek organizations.
As for the other side of the street, the Conservatory website also makes it difficult to find some of the most important information for students looking to plan around future concerts. A copy of the year’s Con calendar should be easily available to web surfers, as many a connie has had to sift through pages and pages of information to find a calendar with more information than the “Events” or “This week at Lawrence” (which are two features that would also be useful on a main page of the site.)
The library website, although massively informative, obscures some of its most useful features: online editions of dictionaries, encyclopedias, and other reference materials, which are harder to find (although more frequently useful) than the listing of course reserves.
Clearly marked links to dictionaries, daily menus, course schedules, and other items of daily interest to students should be more clearly offset for students. Students comprise the vast majority of daily visitors to the website, and many use it as a homepage.
Of course, prospective student, alumni, and general announcements are also important. But if Lawrence students have difficulty making use of the site, prospectives and other visitors are going to be equally confused.
We do not intend this as a slam against computer services or the webmaster. The site is comprehensive, and features a great deal of useful information (with the notable exception of book lists.)
However, the site has become so jam-packed with information that it now needs to be prioritized with regard to what its chief users need most often. Students should not have to dig and dig for the same information day after day.
Obviously, an entire committee recognized this need. Where are the results?