August 23, 2004

School Website Gets a Facelift

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Cornell launched a revamped website over the weekend which some students characterized as “clearer” and “classier” then its much-maligned predecessor. The website features a new color scheme, a highly-tuned interface and panoramic shots of various Cornell locations, such as Weill Cornell Medical College in Doha, Qatar and the Johnson Museum of Art in Ithaca.

Heather Grantham ’06 of the Cornell Image Committee said that the new photos were very intentionally chosen. “They paid more attention to the architectural beauty of the school,” she said, comparing them to the close-ups of students that have been common on the website and in Cornell’s promotional literature. The architectural shots display a better sense of Cornell’s tradition of excellence and scholarship and its permanence, Grantham said.

Grantham also felt that the site was substantially more functional, with pages now easier to navigate and a new search engine powered by Google with several new search categories. Steve Hecht ’06 also had a favorable impression of the new site.

“It’s much clearer, much easier to find what you’re looking for,” he said. “It’s a better image for Cornell.”

Hecht also added that, for potential students, such as his sister, it made the school look better and the daunting application process a little easier.

“It’s about time they finally made a new one,” he said, adding that the old site gave visitors a bad impression of the school. For students, he said that address and phone number searches would be a lot easier, and that the headlines on the front page were a good way of keeping students informed of University events.

“If there was anything that everybody agreed on, it was that nobody liked the website,” said Thomas Bruce, vice president for communications and media relations. “Everybody agreed that to find anything about Cornell, you needed to go to Google. It was clearly a big problem and it didn’t have to be.”

Peter S. Cohl ’05, head of the Image Committee, also reacted positively to the website. “At this point I think it’s a stronger looking site then just about every one of our competitors, from Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford on down,” he said. Cohl, who has been outspoken about the University’s need to market itself more effectively, said that the website was a major step forward for the University.

“A website is your presence to the world,” he said. “It’s really, really important to make the most of that real estate.”

The redesign effort was led by Thomas Richardson, director of the Office of Web Communications.

Lisa Cameron-Norfleet, vice president of communications and media relations for the University, touted several of the new features in her online blog journal on the project. Of special interest to students would be an improved events calendar, which allows student groups to post their own events, search for events or browse through the dozens of daily events posted on the site.

She also mentioned the new search function, which now consolidates searches for people, departments, websites, events and “facts.”

The “facts search” polls the Cornell information database developed by Campus Information and Visitor Relations.

“You can find everything from where to get a kosher meal on campus to the recipe for Cornell Chicken. And more. Much, much more,” Cameron-Norfleet wrote in her blog. Another feature that Grantham appreciated was the front-page link to job listings with the Office of Human Resources and the Wired Cornell page, which lists many of Cornell’s online resources in one place.

She said, however, that some sections of the website, especially the admissions page, still need to be brought up to speed with the improved core. On a message board devoted to the new site, others noted that, like the admissions page, many sections had a much different look and feel from the new home.

Although the University had hoped to debut its new logo and website simultaneously, Bruce said that additional tweaking needs to be done before the logo is unveiled officially.

“We have a couple of technical issues we want to make sure are resolved; we still have a lot of work to do to work out how the logo is used, what the style guides are, what are the palettes and what are the rules of the road,” Bruce said.

For now, however, the general consensus seems that the website has taken a much-needed step in the right direction.

“We look like an Ivy and more,” Cohl said.

Archived article by Michael Morisy
Sun Senior Writer