While many other universities’ online home pages feature interactive videos and maps, the Yale home page greets users with a static image of students sitting outside a residential college.
But after six years with the same site, Yale’s Office of Public Affairs and Communications (OPAC) is partnering with Information Technology Services (ITS) to completely redesign the home page and 30 or so of the “blue sites” that connect to the home page and comprise the central component of Yale’s website, according to University Chief Communications Officer Elizabeth Stauderman ’83 LAW ’04. OPAC plans to launch the new site in August 2015.
“There has been no significant change to the Yale home page since 2008 — a long time in web years,” Stauderman said in an email. “We know that we want to create a site that is engaging and informative, and one that better captures the variety and vitality of the Yale community.”
Yale’s plans for redesign come at the heels of efforts by its peer schools to revamp their images as well. Harvard refreshed its website in 2011, and Columbia also reintroduced a new site in the same year.
A major part of Yale’s effort to overhaul its website is the standardization of the technology platform that supports the Yale site, and no concrete changes are currently planned for the site’s content. Stauderman said that the content changes will be determined after formal user experience research is completed. The redesign of the site will also not extend to the sites of individual schools or departments within the University.
Despite the excitement in OPAC’s Whitney Avenue offices for the project, students closer to campus expressed little enthusiasm for a new Yale website.
Edward Baek ’16 said the new site will not particularly affect him since he rarely uses Yale’s general website.
Other students suggested that Yale’s online presence is most felt through social media. J.D. Sagastume ’15 said he thinks Yale puts substantial emphasis on social media, which he described as “good and progressive.”
Some students suggested that a website redesign is not necessary because the current website functions well.
Adam Jenkinson ’18, for instance, called the layout of the current site “professional and straightforward,” adding that it has all the information he needs.
“I think improvements are always good, but there’s no need to fix what isn’t broken,” he said.
While enthusiasm for the new project seems at best tepid on campus, some students suggested that prospective Yale students might benefit from a revamped website. Ricky Li ’16 recalled that the information on the site was extremely helpful in his college search process.
But Li criticized the accessibility of the website, recalling that a lot of the information he needed was not on the front page. He had to go through several sites to find what he was looking for, he said.
“I thought the website was too distant,” he said. “It was very classy, but it was not close to my life and not accessible.”
Several students said the main Yale home page is not the only part of Yale’s online presence that could use a facelift. The Online Course Selection (OCS) interface, Sagastume said, is one such system that ought to be updated.
Others suggested that most of Yale’s technology, while old and occasionally clunky, does the job required of it.
“Some people complain about OCS, but I think that as long as you can register for classes and everything works, it’s fine,” said Baek.
According to Stauderman, the University plans to hire a firm in the near future to help rebuild its home page and its related sites.
OPAC has already started soliciting the opinions of students and others on their thoughts for the site’s new look. A button on the Yale home page currently allows users to provide input through a survey form.
Correction: Sept. 16
A previous version of this article misstated the title of Elizabeth Stauderman. She is the University Chief Communications Officer. It also omitted her class year.