Voices of washcoll Power New Website
It should be visually engaging, easy to navigate, populated with great images and stories, and integrated with social media and other dynamic content. And it should push out information about the achievements of Washington College’s faculty and students, as well as draw visitors in.
That was the challenge Washington College posed to White Whale Web Services, a small company that, over the course of the last 12 months, has helped the College reimagine and rebuild its most critical communications tool. The site is used by a variety of audiences including prospective students, parents, alumni, staff, students, faculty, donors, job seekers, employers, peer institutions, and the general public, every day.
On the morning of November 12, online visitors were greeted with a montage of images inviting them to explore stories, photo galleries and videos, drawing them deeper into the site. While the site has a very modern look, it is also grounded in the College’s history. George Washington’s signature and his “Rules of Civility” serve as bookends, top and bottom, on the homepage.
“We knew we needed to think strategically about our web content, but we gave ourselves permission to have a little fun with the design,” notes Meredith Davies Hadaway, who as vice president for college relations & marketing spearheaded the project.
Still, looks aren’t everything: in addition to a fresh look, clean navigation and customizable templates, this incarnation of www.washcoll.edu also incorporates a content management system (CMS) intended to make it easy for users across campus to edit content and share stories.
“Since its inception in 1997, the College’s web site has been built by hand and managed by a single staffer, hand-coded first by Ted Knight ’97 and then by Shane Brill ’03.” Hadaway says. “In recent years it has become impractical for a single person to manage 8,000 web pages. In implementing a content management system that encourages distributed authorship, we are able to take advantage of new technology to give all constituencies a voice. The Washington College community is so vibrant and diverse—we believe the new site will better convey that richness.”
In the first phase of adopting the CMS, the web team has built out the core site (what’s in the top navigation) and has migrated academic departments and offices. Work will continue on the site through the end of the spring semester.
“The metaphor we like to use is: ‘It’s a garden, not a painting,’” notes Hadaway. “There is still some weeding and cultivating to do, but we are beginning to see the fruits of our labors, and we look forward to showcasing wonderful stories from throughout the Washington College community on an ongoing basis.”