Does Your Website Have a Personality?

Over the next month, I will occasionally be documenting some of the things I’m learning as I work with Middlebury’s Web Makeover Team. Last month, I mentioned that I will be doing a J-term internship on institutional web development. In other words, I am helping redesign the Middlebury College website. So bear with me as I flesh out some of debates we are having as a group.

Personality. I left a series of focus groups last week with one question: what is Middlebury’s personality? Our focus groups probed participants on a lot of different topics: customization, navigation, search, homepage layout and design, etc. But it was clear people really cared about how the Middlebury website reflected the Middlebury community. Should the homepage be a representation of who we are or should it reflect who we want to be? It’s an perennial “viewbook” discussion that takes place at most education institutions who put count up the number of people of color in an admissions brochure in the name of diversity. Still others speak of Middlebury’s “strengths” that should help it differentiate from other higher education institutions — environmental studies, languages, international affairs.

But how does this translate into a website, design, and layout? Is it the colors? photos? flash? Well, we’ll probably leave it to the design firm to help us with that…

For a good example of a school that knows who it is: Oberlin. Their website reflects who exactly I imagine Oberlin to be: artsy, colorful, crazy, etc.

It’s clear to me that someone must be in charge of envisioning the fundamental personality of Middlebury beyond branding and logos. What is the gut feeling of Middlebury?

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One thought on “Does Your Website Have a Personality?”

  1. I don’t know how much I agree about the overall functionality of the Oberlin site(it sort of looks more like a non profit organization site than a university), but there’s something about the “We are Oberlin” statement that is very inviting. I think asking various Midd students what their gut feelings about Middlebury are could prove very insightful for both the website as well as the school in general. I what may seem to be the most obvious words for some people–outdoorsy, etc.–might not actually reflect how the majority of people feel about the school.

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