Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Evaluating your department's website

On Deinde Paul Nikkel has an excellent post on Evaluating Departmental Websites, picked up from RogueClassicism and ultimately the Classics List. The posts are very much speaking my language. I frequently find myself amazed by the number of websites that don't do these basics, like putting your address, phone number and contact details upfront and prominent. I sometimes do a "click test" to determine how many clicks it takes me to find a departmental address or contact details. The ideal is 1 click, i.e it's on the front page, but often it's several clicks down the line. I think our departmental website in Birmingham satisfies most of the criteria on the list above, with the exception of RSS feeds. But I'd like to add that more important than RSS is the need for the site to be bang-up-to-date. I introduced a news section to our website and was constantly encouraging colleagues to contribute items, as well as to keep other elements of the site alive by providing information (until I stood down from running the site just over a year ago). The difficulty is that you have to be a real bully to get the information, and even then it's still like getting blood from a stone. I was frequently amazed by how far colleagues were uninterested in providing information on themselves, their teaching, their research projects and so on. What that means is that given academics' inertia, one requires an enthusiast who will write material for the apathetes, and there are not many departments that have such enthusiasts.

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