Simmons website needs a makeover


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By Kate Joseph
Staff Writer

You never get a second chance to make a first impression, and Simmons College’s website is certainly not making a good one.

The new and “improved” Simmons website was launched earlier this year after 18 months of planning and building by the marketing and technology departments along with outside design firm Boston Interactive.

Courtney Dee, the Director of Online Communication and Design for Simmons College, has worked closely on the new website since its conception. According to Dee, the intent of the redesign was to share the Simmons community more efficiently through stories, social media, and centralized information. Instead, we got an unorganized website filled with design flaws that is nonfunctional in several areas, which is damaging the representation of Simmons College to the world.

Among these issues are:

• Messy text and links spread out strangely in various fonts and sizes;

• Several huge, rotating photos with vague text obstruction that dominate the front page;

• Unorganized pages that make the website difficult to navigate and information hard to find

• A nearly nonfunctional search engine and faculty directory;

• A form to report issues with the website that can only be found after four clicks.

“We are aware of the functionality issues/limitations that have been brought to our attention by the Simmons community, or that we have discovered ourselves through use,” said Dee.

According to Dee, these issues are being fixed whenever they arise. For example, shortly after launch, several social media feeds broke due to API updates, but this issue was quickly resolved. However, larger issues, like search functionality, take more time and are still in progress.

The Simmons website may be an ongoing project, but many of the problems that sprung up in the original launch are still around right now, particularly that pesky search engine, and we don’t have time to waste.

It is imperative that Simmons takes action to fix these issues immediately. No excuses.

A college’s web identity sets it apart when prospective students are considering living and learning at that school for their college career. In a study by 5 Degrees Branding published this summer, 80 percent of high school seniors said they find a college’s website more influential than any other medium when choosing a college. If Simmons’ website continues to be overcomplicated and unattractive, it will turn off potential students.

The website is also unhelpful to current students and faculty, like recent transfer student Jillian Jennett.

“When I transferred to Simmons from Roger Williams University, I needed to transfer credits, but I couldn’t find the form to do so online,” said Jennett. “The form might be online somewhere, but after an hour of searching for it I ended up just going to the registrar myself. The website should make things more convenient to find, but so far my experience has just been annoying.”

Additionally, the way Simmons is portrayed online is crucial to our community. Undoubtedly, students, faculty, and staff want Simmons to be seen positively. However, when a web search yields a poorly done website, it does not reflect well on our community, especially because Google Analytics reports this website has gotten over one million hits since its launch, according to Dee.

Simmons president Helen Drinan recently told Fortune, in regards to Simmons’ MBA program moving online, “The cold, hard reality is the further away from Boston you get, it’s ‘Simmons who?’”

When our future employers have never heard of Simmons and seek more information, this website does not illustrate Simmons as an exceptional institution, particularly if that employer is looking for a candidate who is well-educated in design and communications.

Plus, creating an attractive, functioning website is time consuming, expensive, and difficult work, but it’s definitely not impossible. There are a multitude of incredible college websites that excel where Simmons fails. Middlebury College’s website uses a sleek homepage that contains a lot of information through easy bookshelf-like links; Boston University uses eye-catching video and organized menus on their main page; and the University of Chicago boasts a modern site that showcases the achievements of their current students and alumni right up top.

Ultimately, Simmons’ website redesign is embarrassing to our community, past, present, and future. Simmons needs to fix its mistakes and invest in a website with excellent design, unparalleled organization and optimum functionality, to leave visitors with a positive impression of Simmons College.