Coming this Fall: The New Oberlin.edu

Oberlin’s website is getting a much-needed overhaul.

Most of our current website, including all academic department, admissions, and office sites, is built on an aging content management system (CMS) with templates that were created in 2008. That was the age of flip phones, Flash video, Internet Explorer 7, and Netscape 9. Most of Oberlin’s class of ’20 was in fifth grade, and President Bush was still in the White House.

Today, screen sizes are both bigger AND smaller than they were in 2008. There are more sizes, more aspect ratios, and more kinds of devices displaying web content in places other than on a desk—and now we can make web pages that adjust themselves to the dimensions of the screen that’s displaying them. In 2008 you had to choose from five or six fonts if you wanted to use the same font on Windows and Mac; today almost any typeface can be used, so websites can finally share a common design with printed materials. The list goes on.

These are all really good things! But they also make web design more challenging and complex than ever before. Compounding the issue are the “creative solutions” (OK, “hacks”) we’ve come up with over the years to get around the limitations of our existing tools. We ended up with several separate systems—and web addresses—for many of our most important sites, and over time, they’ve become disjointed.

The reunification is near. Our initial launch later this fall will include the new home page, admissions sites, news & events, academic programs, the conservatory and college landing pages, and much of the content that populates those pages, like news stories and faculty bios. In the following months, we’ll continue moving sites over to the new system.

The web development firm we are working with is building out the site infrastructure as I write this, and we on the webteam are doing our best to migrate content smoothly, create new content, and plan for the many facets of the launch that will arise in the coming weeks.

I’d like to extend a “thank you” to everyone who has pitched in throughout the process: faculty, staff, students, alumni, and even prospective students who advised us in selecting the vendor, provided input in the group and one-on-one discussions, tested wireframes, and made time to have new photos taken for their bios.

We’ll have more to add as things unfold.

-Bill

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