Come September 2015, visitors to Yale’s official web page will be greeted by a revamped site.
In an announcement earlier this month, Yale Information and Technology Services unveiled a series of efforts aimed to modernize and improve its web functions across all University platforms. The changes include a massive migration of all yale.edu websites to an updated server and a complete redesign of the University’s main website, which is slated for completion in September 2015. Still, faculty and site owners interviewed said they were largely unaware of the initiatives and felt their input had not been taken into account in implementing the new changes.
“The technologies that support Yale’s online environments, especially websites and search technologies, had grown organically over the years, and maintenance and planning for these environments had largely been deferred,” Associate CIO for Campus Community Technologies Jane Livingston said in an email. “These changes are what you are now seeing come to fruition.”
She added that, in 2012, faculty, students and staff expressed concerns about the modernity of available tools and services. As a result, ITS put together a working group to recommend a series of changes that are currently being implemented.
Most visibly, Yale’s homepage is in the process of becoming redesigned in a joint effort with the Office of Public Affairs and Communications and a third party vendor.
Chief Communications Officer and Special Assistant to the President Elizabeth Stauderman ’83 LAW ’04 said the University will not know about specific design components of the new yale.edu until the University completes the “information architecture phase of the project,” which entails organizing and labeling websites. However, she said the committee, which is overseeing the website overhaul, recently completed the initial step of reviewing and approving the creative brief presented by the website design firm.
“Yale.edu is the University’s most prominent institutional website, so it is high priority,” University Spokesperson Tom Conroy said in an email. “Yale is looking forward to receiving preliminary information architecture recommendations from the firm shortly, but it’s too soon to point to specific design or content direction yet.”
He added that the firm has done focus groups with current students and alumni in addition to meeting with faculty and administrators.
In addition to the homepage, University administrators also announced plans to revamp other major administrative sites.
“We are currently investigating the possibility of replacing the existing web sites for [Finance & Business Operations] and [Human Resources],” Livingston said. “If we decide to go forward with that plan, we will create a single ‘University services’ site where all Yale community members can go to find services such as: how to pay a bill, buy something, change your beneficiaries, etc.”
Finally, the announcement detailed that all sites beginning with yale.edu are being reviewed and will migrate from the current “static HTML” server to a new web content management platform called Drupal 7. The move will help modernize and improve Yale’s web presence because the Drupal server is a more powerful management platform.
Livingston said that these websites will be retired over the course of the coming year once all sites have been moved, and ITS is reaching out to affected web site owners to provide support in helping them choose where to place their site.
Still, two site owners interviewed said they had yet to learn about ITS’s plans for their website migration, while professors and students interviewed were also largely unaware of the larger changes being made to Yale’s online interface. Of the five professors interviewed, three said they were in the dark about the plans and none of the 12 students interviewed had been notified of the project.
Philosophy professor Aaron Norby GRD ’13, who manages his personal academic website, said he has yet to receive contact from the ITS about the changes being made, and that he is unsure about what will happen to his website.
“I’m not sure yet if I’ll need help [to transition], or if my website will just stay up if I do nothing,” he said. He also noted that he would prefer if the revamped system continues to host his customized website.
Computer science professor Holly Rushmeier said she had learned about the ITS project from an email sent by the department that asked for inputs. However, she said she did not have any specific requests for the website revamps, and merely wants a reliable and easy-to-use interface.
Although computer science professor David Gerlernter ’76 knew that changes were being implemented, he said he is unaware of the designs of the new interface. He said he does not think ITS is not interested in incorporating ideas proposed by himself or his colleagues.
“There are loads and loads of things we could tell the University,” he said. “But my experience suggests that the University couldn’t care less.”
He also said the University had previously rejected his user interface design, which would feature live streaming of events on campus, in the late 1990s.
Students interviewed said that they were unaware of the changes, and some saw no pressing need for an overhaul of the system.
“I had no idea about the changes being made to the online servers,” Lucas Janetos ’18 said. “ I personally do not see any need for a major overhaul, everything seems to be functional and pretty user-friendly.”
ITS will host information sessions on campus detailing the site migration process in the coming months.