4.7 Questions With Mark Wood

Mark Wood, Senior Director of Communications at Pomona College, recently oversaw the team that designed and built Pomona’s new web site, which launched on Monday. Mark is also an executive editor and art director and designer for Pomona College Magazine.

TSL: What was the biggest debate the team had while redesigning the Pomona College web site?

MW: The biggest debate was probably what to do with the home page. Some wanted to keep it very simple; others wanted to make sure it was rich with possibilities. We ended up trying to strike a balance—trying to keep it visually simple while offering a range of fairly complex interactive experiences. But of course, even after we settled on the five-pane format, we had to figure out which five to include out of the dozens of possibilities we came up with. In the end, it was the interactivity of the site that allowed us to strike what I think is a good balance.

TSL: You called this redesign “Pomona 3.0” in an article for last week’s TSL. What got left out that you want to see in Pomona 4.0?

MW: Actually, one of my colleagues, Whitney Hengesbach, called it that, but I agree. And as another of my colleagues, Laura Tiffany, pointed out, we couldn’t have imagined some of the things we’re doing in this web just a few years ago, so why would we expect to know what Pomona 4.0 will contain? But I guess if I had to answer, I would say one thing would be a seamless integration with the college portal, and another would be a mobile version of our web. Those may sound a bit boring, but either would be a good step.

TSL: In the process of redesigning the web site, did you scout out other school’s web sites? Which was your favorite?

MW: Each of us had different favorites. My own favorites were a couple that used some version of the multi-pane approach that we eventually adopted. Notre Dame is one. The other was Boston University, but they subsequently scrapped that design for something much less interactive. Go figure.

TSL: President Obama revolutionized campaigning with his use of the Internet to both communicate and fundraise. How is Pomona changing the way colleges present themselves on the internet? In short, how is Pomona College similar to Barack Obama? Ideally, your answer would be related to the Internet, but it doesn’t have to be.

MW: I don’t think we’re doing anything that revolutionary. We simply wanted to find a way to combine simplicity of form with richness of function and to offer visitors—especially prospective students—a variety of interesting and interactive ways of learning about the college right on the home page.

TSL: Finish the sentence: By the dawn of the 22nd century, Pomona’s web presence will include…

MW: If I have trouble imagining Pomona 4.0, how can I possibly imagine Pomona 40.0? Maybe by 2100 it will be a true “virtual tour” of the college in which the visitor can actually interact with the people who are here. But in all likelihood, if anyone were to look back at that suggestion in 2100, it would be like reading one of those old sci-fi books from the ‘40s where people in 1990 are rocketing around among the planets and navigating with the use of slide-rules. Revolutionary technologies do happen, but usually not the ones we expect.

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