A couple weeks ago, the St. Olaf website launched a complete overhaul of its design and opinion has been divided since. In a general sense, prospective students, underclassmen and individuals that do not attend the college (such as alumni and parents) love the new website. On the other hand, many upperclassmen decry the redesign. Change is hard.
And I am definitely one of those upperclassmen that does not like it. But my distaste is within reason (at least I like to think it is).
First off, my gripes are not with the aesthetics of the new page. It seems like every time anything – whether it’s a college’s website or a major company’s logo – goes through a design overhaul, all of a sudden everyone becomes an expert in graphic design and has their two cents to say. And then two weeks later they get over it.
The design itself is not the problem; it looks fine. Given that one of the reasons for the logo update was to get away from the old, more 90s-ish look, it makes sense that an update to the website’s UI was also warranted. As much as much as I liked the old site, it was definitely a product of an older time.
This actually kind of gets at why I prefer the old website. Even though it was not necessarily as visually appealing as the new design, it was infinitely more usable. All the information you needed was compact and easily indexable. It was a tool that I used daily to access practical college-related apps or to find information. And all of that is still there, but not in an intuitive, easy-to-use format.
In the quest to make the website look all new and shiny, I now have to scroll down about half a mile to find the link I’m looking for.
Not to mention that the calendar is a complete mess, with events from all over campus overlapping each other in a confusing array. My only respite is that – at least at the time of writing this op-ed – that the directory still operates with the old design for whatever reason.
Due to this impracticality, the new website is most irritating to those students who actually used the website in their day-to-day lives. For us, the website was a compact directory to any and all campus info that we needed.
But maybe we need to admit to ourselves that the website just isn’t for us anymore. This isn’t the 90s or the early 2000s anymore; it’s more than just students who are clicking on the page.
In fact, probably the majority of visitors to the site are prospective students who are trying to decide whether or not they want to come here. And from that perspective, the old website just didn’t cut it. It looked old and outdated. I know from searching through grad school options that a bad website is a kind of a turn-off toward any particular school. So if the look of the website is at least a part factor in the admissions process, it’s only fair that the college wants to put its best face forward.
I could have written a more fiery op-ed going through all the little nitpicky things I find irritating about the new website’s functionality (or lack thereof), but ultimately it doesn’t matter because the old website is not coming back. It’s purpose has changed.
It’s not a tool for students anymore, but basically a digital pamphlet for the St. Olaf Marketing Department. And the people who are upset are the people who cannot handle that.