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New website design aims to reach larger audience

Sixty thousand pages of information make up the St. Olaf College website. This vast number made the task of transforming the college’s webpage all the more daunting.

The process of renewing the site began in April 2012 when Information Technology decided to switch the content management system used to maintain and edit the school’s webpage. The department had been operating with a Dreamweaver-based platform, but this was proving to be both overly complicated and expensive.

The licensing cost of Dreamweaver software is “projected to skyrocket in the coming years,” said Steve Blodgett, St. Olaf’s director of marketing and communications.

The necessary technical change presented an opportunity for a complete website facelift. And the software was not the only aspect of the website that was outdated.

“We’ve known for several years that the St. Olaf website was overdue for a design refresh,” Blodgett said, adding that the old setup was not “keeping up with new developments” in the college’s personality and public image.

Webpage designers faced the challenge of maintaining the robust content that the site contains, while also increasing the ease of navigation. The webpage is a source of important information for many groups of people who interact with St. Olaf College. Prospective students, current students, parents, faculty and alumni all require a variety of assistance from the school’s webpage.

According to Blodgett, the website is the “front door” to the school, and if it appears confusing or cluttered, a student could miss the intended message that the college is trying to convey. Before the content changes, the webpage was trying to be “all things to all people,” he said.

The homepage’s old format featured links to pages geared toward specific groups’ needs.

The main page now contains links to features such as interactive maps and all-over-campus webcams, as well as links for campus visits and applications. The home page also makes more of an effort to highlight the principles of a St. Olaf education, such as a high educational standard, a strong residential community and a global perspective.

Those responsible for the changes hope that current students will eventually find the new website easier to navigate than the old system. In the meantime, familiar links like Moodle, the Student Information System and the Piper Center can be found just below the search bar, in the top right-hand corner under the title “current students.”

While these changes have increased accessibility of the college for Internet users, there are always more ways to improve.

“The website will continue to evolve as both WordPress and the new design are extended,” said Blodgett, hinting that students should look for more advancement in the future.

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