Pomona Redesigns Website for the First Time in Nearly a Decade

On Monday, Feb. 22, Pomona College plans to launch a new homepage for the first time in almost a decade.

Pomona Communications Director Mark Wood said this feat of web-design will “put Pomona ahead of the curve again” in terms of college websites.

“We like to call it Pomona 3.0,” Web Manager and Associate Director of Communications Whitney Hengesbach said. “I got here weeks after the first Pomona website was retired. Now, we are days from launching the third edition.”

The new site was created by a team headed by Wood that included Hengesbach, Web Support Specialist Rory Reiff, and Assistant Director of Communications and Web Editor Laura Tiffany.

“We needed three people,” Hengesbach said. “We were extremely lucky to get Rory just before the hiring freeze went through— he’s done a lot of great work.”

Together, they brought their ideas together into a working model.

“It’s not just a redesign of the page,” Hengesbach said. “The site is implemented in a whole new way.”

The new site will demonstrate greater usability and innovative media design, and aims to help Pomona put forward an improved public face.

“We wanted to find ways to make the site both richer and simpler,” Wood said. “The web has taken on a lot of new directions in recent years. In terms of external communication devices, our website is probably Pomona’s most important one, since so many people use the internet.”

Another goal for the website, Hengesbach said, was to “speak right away to prospective students—we wanted them to get a quick and rich grasp of exactly what makes Pomona such an amazing and unique place.”

He said 99 percent of the material visible on the home page takes place right there—you can explore without being routed away to secondary pages.

“The expandible navigation scheme lets us harbor as many features as we want, but not blister the user’s eye with a trillion links,” Hengesbach said.

The new site is based on a design similar to that of the current admissions page, which was redesigned in 2008, but this project incorporates many more features. The home page has five panels: “By the numbers,” “Pomona people,” “Being there,” a video section, and a fifth that will change relatively frequently.

Besides having a more powerful news and events page that sorts by category, the design team picked up on some recent developments in social networking on the internet, and included links to Pomona’s Facebook, Flickr, MySpace, Twitter and YouTube sites.

The site is built through Cascade, a content management system that separates design and content into separate modules. This means it will be easier to reorganize content in the future while retaining the same basic site design.

Though the program was expensive, Hengesbach said Pomona’s web design is an “ongoing process.”

The web “is becoming more and more central to universities and colleges around the country,” he said.

“The idea of letting your website age for four or five years is just not so hot any more.”

Though the team anticipates some wrinkles, the transfer on Monday should only take a few minutes, and they are confident that the transition will be both smooth and impressive.

“Overall, we’re excited to get some ‘wows,’” Wood said. “Eight to ten years ago, our site was pretty good for its time. I think this will bring us to the cutting edge again.”

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