Arts & Sciences, United Online
New Web site brings undergrad and grad schools under one roof
Call it Extreme Makeover — CAS Edition.
For almost a year, the College of Arts & Sciences has quietly undergone a comprehensive online redesign. The proverbial bus was rolled away last week to reveal a single, user-friendly Web site that unifies all 25 academic departments — graduate and undergraduate — and 32 affiliated research centers and institutes.
“We’ve abandoned the confusing double identities created by separate Web sites for CAS and GRS,” says Arts & Sciences Dean Virginia Sapiro. “We are now one coherent entity.”
The last Web redesign was five years ago, says Amy Biderman, communications director at CAS, and the two separate Web presences — undergraduate and graduate — served mostly as a portal to myriad individual departments. “We hope the site encourages an understanding of Arts & Sciences as one universe encompassing our three core missions: undergraduate education, graduate education, and research,” she says.
Home to more than 9,000 undergraduate and graduate students and 600 professors, CAS is by far BU’s largest college. Undergrads can pick from more than 2,500 courses in some 70 concentrations, and graduate students can earn degrees in almost 50 fields of the humanities. That translates to a mountain of Web content, says Pamela Sarian, assistant director of New Media, who managed the project, one of the University’s largest site overhauls to date.
“When they have everything from anthropology to biology to French, it’s really hard to capture all that and give visitors an idea of how broad this place really is and the wealth of opportunities it offers,” Sarian says.
During the redesign, the content from both sites underwent substantial analysis and was significantly streamlined. Site navigation has been simplified and enriched with plenty of multimedia, from audio slide shows to videos. Arts & Sciences magazine is also represented, and there is a section for CAS alums.
“It’s designed to be user-friendly for our different constituencies — prospective students, students, alumni, faculty and staff, and the ‘just curious,’” says Sapiro. “We’re also smoothly integrated with other relevant Web sites, such as admissions and Bostonia.”
From day one, Sapiro and her associate deans and senior CAS faculty were deeply involved in the process, meeting regularly with the New Media team to hash out content, tone, and accuracy.
“Design by faculty committee is usually very challenging, but they were really receptive to our ideas,” Sarian says. “A lot of times with a committee you end up diluting the project. This was by far the easiest design-by-committee we’ve ever done.”
The redesign also includes a new look for the former AdminNet, the college’s intranet site for administrative documents, committee meeting minutes, and instructor and chair guidelines, among other things. Access was simplified, including the removal of password protections. The revamped section is now grouped in a “Faculty & Staff” section.
Next on New Media’s plate is the revamping of individual CAS department and program Web sites. The team recently sent a survey to chairs and program directors to assess their needs. For other schools and colleges contemplating site overhauls, Biderman advises patience.
“Take the redesign one section at a time, and keep a sense of humor,” she says. “The process may seem daunting at times and there will be many challenges, but the final product is truly rewarding.”
Caleb Daniloff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Comments