Monday, October 24, 2005

We got flamed!

Oh, yeah! I was starting to worry that we wouldn't get anyone hating the new web design, but Laura Walsh from the local student newspaper comes to the rescue:
Web Review, sorry no HTML to link to
Woo hoo! She rips on us pretty good, so we've gotten that visceral reaction we were hoping for. If everyone went "whatever," then we would have failed, I think. We must have done something right.

Still, I would have preferred a more informed critique with suggestions that we could actually take advantage of to make the site better. She apparently doesn't grok a few things about the NMSU site:
  • Yes, the main site has a lot of links, but we actually decreased the number of links from the old NMSU site. NMSU is a large, complex, and multifaceted organization. There's a practical and political limit to how much we can reduce the number of navigational links while still preserving some semblance of direct navigation and current information linkage on the main site so it doesn't appear static.
  • NMSU's role as a land grant institution is apparently lost to her. The NMSU site is not just about student recruitment - we have to represent the research and outreach aspects of NMSU as well as the academic aspects. Yes, the news story is not specifically aimed at incoming freshmen - it is designed to highlight the role that NMSU plays for all citizens of New Mexico. But who wants to go to school at an ivory tower that has no connection to the real world? She does, apparently, but I imagine there are many students who would like to go to a university which is strong in research and outreach, because it means opportunities for real-world learning from teachers with current, real-world experience.
  • Putting the news story on the main page is directly in line with President Martin's call to communicate the value and impact of NMSU as a world-class institution - we could either say that we're world class, or show that we're world class through examples of current research and outreach.
  • If she would prefer news stories relevant to incoming students on the main NMSU page, she's in a superb position to rectify the situation: she works at a student newspaper. She could write some news stories and submit them to University Communications for syndication on the main web site. If they're good enough, and compelling enough, her stories would be up there instead of pictures of "old men staring at pine trees."
  • There are more than five asian students going to NMSU. In fact, NMSU is distinguished by being an uncommonly racially and socially diverse university, with many different ethnic groups represented and a stronger-than-average participation by "nontraditional" students. We are even designated as a Hispanic-serving land grant institution. It's unfortunate that she's upset by there being non-white people in the photos, but diversity in those ambiance photos is not just about "political correctness." NMSU actually is a diverse university. Those are actual NMSU students and instructors in those photos.
  • Finally, despite the criticisms, I would have liked to see a bit of balanced reporting that highlights some of the improvements of the site, such as the inclusion of print style sheets and the fact that the new site is much more accessible to users using assistive devices like screen readers, and supports web standards for wider availability and future flexibility. If she knows about web design, surely she would have picked up on these important, but less "sexy," features, but for some reason chose not to mention them in her review.
Since Laura Walsh is such a great web designer, I thought I'd go over to the Round Up web site to pick up some web design tips...oh wait, there isn't a Round Up web site. The only thing remotely like a Round Up web site is this collegepublisher site which not only does the web design for them, but appears to have been abandoned since the news is more than six months out of date. Oh, well!

5 comments:

daniel said...

Ahemmmm....

I believe that I offered up a critic of the "new" nmsu site when it was first launched. Come on CC give credit where credit is due! LOL! Although I do not like the home page at all, I do like (and understand) the use of templates and stylesheets to keep a more "universal" look and feel under control.

- daniel

CC said...

That's true. Of course, it wasn't in a public forum, and was a little more constructive than what Walsh came up with to rail against. "Two old men staring at trees." Sheesh.

Anonymous said...

Take a look at that hat - enough said.
I think she's just an angry girl, upset she's not in high school anymore, and this is the only way she can make any waves. It was a total waste of space -- the Roundup could have sold that to some drink and drown bar in Juarez. I guess ad business is down, eh?

I had an idea CC, but it would take too much work to implement; find the IP ranges of the Roundup offices and write a "special" rewrite rule where her picture would should up on the top bar of the NMSU home page. While we're at it, let's change the style sheet so the pages come up orange!

Rich

CC said...

Well, it's a bit impractical to blame (let alone punish) the entire RoundUp for a single reporter's story. And I try to keep this in perspective - she's still learning the ropes of journalism, so her article needs to be taken with a grain of salt. She's about Fox News level now, but give her time, and she might rise to CNN, BBC, or even NPR level in the future.

Daniel said...

According to my sources in the Journalism college, she is photojournalism major. So I do not put much stock in writing being much more than "eye candy."

-daniel