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Williams Website – Home Page, 1

After alumni and the efforts of the admissions office, the Williams website is perhaps our best marketing tool in attracting intelligent, talented, and motivated students to join our community in the Purple Valley. Unfortunately a considerable subset of these students most likely haven’t heard of Williams –  we only have so many alumni – far fewer than, say, Harvard – and our admissions officers can only visit so many high schools. For these students the Williams website becomes a powerful tool of discovery – it’s the first impression we give to show off what makes the College so special. How does it do? Part 1 of x.

Let’s start with, the home page:

Screenshot (58)_LI


1) For me the best parts of my time at Williams were the close relationships I had with professors, the research I did with them, the small and fascinating classes, tutorials, and the small sized community from which I’ve made many meaningful friendships. These are nowhere to be found on our home page (why?), and the biggest posts – attracting the most clicks – do not even allude to them. The closest one that comes to this is the post on Winter Study, under the unfortunate header “From the Archives”. What prospective student would go to the “Archives” when seeing what Williams is about today?

2) Stunningly, not a single professor is featured or even mentioned on the home page.

3) The boxed links on the lower right hand corner – meant to standout against the white background to attract attention – only cover “Admissions & Aid”, “Campaign for Williams”, “Varsity Sports”, and “Arts at Williams”. Naturally all are important, but where is “Academics”? Ctrl+F and typing “academics” yields 0 results. I would have to click “Menu” in the upper right hand corner – which has too many links – to find it.

4) I don’t know if this is just me, but it seems odd that under “Innovation” is a photo of a typewriter featuring a month were Williams students used one. Is this really the best example of innovation at Williams? What about our upcoming Science Center? Or groundbreaking research by professors and students?

5) The news that a Williams senior won the Watson Fellowship is relegated to the bottom of the landing page – why? Don’t we want to boast this?

6) The Featured Events section, also relegated to the bottom right, leaves much to be desired in terms of diversity of what’s actually featured. The three right now all lean politically, but in the page, there are math talks by students, sports games, and new acquisitions by the Sawyer and Schow libraries. Why don’t we feature these too? For that matter, who decides what events to feature…?

7) The most interesting part of the home page is at the bottom, only seen after scrolling down, under the banner “Williams Life” (for that matter, why is the font of these banners so small?). There are so many stunning photos highlighting Williams – professors working with students, our dining staff, the beautiful location – but all, for some reason, are without any caption and link to nothing else of relevance in the website. A prospective student might get excited at seeing a professor and a student working in a lab, but upon clicking it would find a dead end – no caption, no link as to what they might be doing. Are they just posing for the camera? Also and oddly enough, the photo featuring our new President has no name attached to it. What would a prospective student make of that, and our home page in general?

What do readers think of our website?


New Home Page for Williams

Williams has a new home page. Read this for background:

The first step toward a rethinking of the college website has been the technical change of moving the homepage and many other college sites to the content management system called WordPress—and, most recently, the shifting of those sites to a new server. We’ve taken the occasion to also make a few modest changes to the homepage toward more visual appeal and ease of navigation.

All of the homepage’s navigation remains intact, including the secondary navigation that’s targeted for specific users (now in the right-hand column, under “Especially For”). If you’re having any problems finding what you’re looking for, please email

Angela Paik Schaeffer, Director of Communications

Scott Pittinsky, Director of Web Operations

Since I want Angela and Scott to like EphBlog and redistribute our content, let me start by saying: Cool! Williams definitely needed devote some effort to the home page. This iteration is much better than the previous version. WordPress rocks! (Indeed, it is what we use for EphBlog.)

Alas, not all members of the EphBlog community are as eager to suck up to Angela and Scott as I am. dm ’10 (who knows a thing or two about computers) writes:

If OIT requires a student opinion survey in order to figure out that this redesign looks completely amateurish and that serious websites are not built in WordPress, then something is deeply, deeply wrong.

See student reaction at WSO. Alas, not a single student is as supportive of the efforts of the Administration’s efforts as I am. Call me Adam Falk’s running dog!

What do you think?

(Ed Note: At Jeffs’ excellent suggestion, the running comments from our Speak Up column have been moved to the ‘comments’ on this post. The commentary started very soon after the changes were announced and visible. See below at comment 3. Confusingly, the transferred comments begin at #52 through #69. The next new comment from a reader of this post will be #4.)


Williams v. Amherst, Facebook Edition

The Williams Facebook page has (as of December 16) 5587 fans (and counting), as compared to 4076 for Amherst.  The new Eph Alum Facebook page (2643 fans) is likewise already more popular than its Amherst counterpart (1998 fans).*  The Williams Athletics page is also very popular, with 1299 fans; there is no direct Amherst equivalent, and the closest approximation has only 206 fans . . . yet another way in which Williams College kicks Amherst in the butt.

Will Slack ’11 summarized other Williams pages on Facebook (and elsewhere) in this useful post.  Hopefully, Williams’ soon-to-be-hired new webmeister will create a single, fully comprehensive, centralized directory of Williams-related sites on the web.

[By the way, for those interested in the two huge Williams spikes in the Google Trends chart in the link included above, they correspond to two events: College Gameday on campus in November, 2007, and the release of the Forbes rankings on August 12, 2010.  Those are, by far, the two highest search days for Williams in Google history].

* a fair-minded observer would note that Williams does have more alumni than Amherst.  I am not a fair-minded observer.


Super Cool Thing of the Day

Be sure to check out this awesome evolving campus map, courtesy of the College Archives.  [For some reason, it stops at 1989].  This is, without a doubt, one of the coolest things on the college website, and deserves to be highlighted at some point in a less obscure location.  Alas, I can’t figure out how to post a version directly to this page.  There are many other interesting features on the College Archives site, but my favorite by far is a description of the defunct college Cane Contest.  No summary here can do it justice — just read it.  I’d say bring this back, but for the inevitable death-by-caning that it would surely inspire.


Do you have the old map?

I’m looking for a Baxter-era map of Williams. The current campus map has the pesky addition of the north and south academic buildings, plus the switching of Paresky for Baxter. It doesn’t matter to me whether the map has the new theater or not. Does anyone have one? I will post the fruits of my labors on EphBlog after I am done with my project.



Williams and Social Networking

From Williams’ Facebook page:

A recent post from Inside Higher Education, titled “Finding Friends – And Ambiguity,” states that while most colleges now use social media sites, they still aren’t sure what they’re good for. Well, we want to know what you think they’re good for: what do you like about the Williams social media sites, and what could we be doing better?  What features would you like to see on our Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or Flickr pages?  Post a comment or e-mail with questions, suggestions, or examples. Williams is a small, intimate community, and we’d like our social media sites to reflect that community.

Anyone have thoughts?  Be sure to cc the Williams twitter email as well!  I do like the new EPHS (every person has a story) page, cool idea.

Personally, I’d love to see, down the line, more historic athletic highlights and campus music / comedy performances on the Williams YouTube page; those are the types of things that have the potential to generate a tons of viewership and, potentially, even go viral.  I’d also like to see Williams aggregate (when it can get permission to do so) third-party videos featuring Williams or its alumni, e.g., this recent video of Joshua Smith from the Economist.

As for the Flickr pool, there are tons of amazing photos of Williams on Flickr.  I’d love to see an easy way for other Flickr users to suggest photos of Williams by third-parties (students, alums, visitors) be added to the official Williams Flickr pool.  [Perhaps there already is one, but I don’t think so].


Williams Online

Let’s just say that this little post of Williams on Twitter ballooned a bit, shall we?

Ideas on how better can this post be organized?


Williams on Facebook:



Event Information/Calendars:



Telecast map for homecoming

Thanks to the Alumni Office for putting together this compendium of telecast locations for the homecoming game:

View Williams Football Telecasts 2009 in a larger map

(if you drag the map around, you’ll see that there are locations in Japan, Hawaii, and the UK)

Go here to view more details about on-campus celebrations as well as a telecast directory (use the dropdown menu towards the bottom of the page to find your town).

(h/t Juan Baena ’06)


Student Blogging as College PR

There’s an article in The New York Times this morning (“M.I.T. Taking Student Blogs to the Nth Degree“) that discusses how colleges are using student blogs to publicize life at the college and entice prospects. It notes:

Dozens of colleges — including Amherst, Bates, Carleton, Colby, Vassar, Wellesley and Yale — are embracing student blogs on their Web sites, seeing them as a powerful marketing tool for high school students, who these days are less interested in official messages and statistics than in first-hand narratives and direct interaction with current students.

Notice that Williams isn’t mentioned.

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Webmail at Williams

Alums and other Ephblog readers: this one will probably be Greek to you. Sorry.

Here are a few tips for using the Williams webmail system:

  1. Expand beyond your inbox. You can add additional folders beyond the Inbox, Drafts, Sent, and Trash folders. My additional folders include one for the Daily Messages, one for Ephblog comment notifications, one for Outling Club messages, and more for other groups. You can put messages into these folders using…
  2. Message Filters. For example, I have my filters set to send anything with “Daily Messages” in the title to the folder I made for them. You can also automatically forward messages from certain people to another e-mail address as well. You do this by….
  3. Changing your options. Options are found on the top right of webmail, next to “Help” and “Sign Out.” Under “personal,” you can change the name that appears in the “From” field, so that I know that Meredith Kineid is sending me an e-mail, and not Message filters are under mail. Some other options to change:
  4. More messages per page. Under Settings > Display; mine is set for 50. You also want to enable the message pane but disable HTML.
  5. Save original messages under your reply. Otherwise, I’m not sure what question of mine you’re responding to, especially if its been a few days. Under Composing > Format > Reply.
  6. If you want, forward all messages to another account. Under forwarding. I prefer not to, but plenty of friends put everything on Gmail.
  7. Use the search. Webmail search is fast and easy to use – it’s my quickest way of finding old messages. (I save everything, so I need search to look through all 7999 messages in my inbox or >2000 messages in the folders.)

And lastly, if you don’t have time to reply to e-mails, don’t open them. Otherwise, you forget to reply because of the volume of messages you get, and whoever sent you the message is left in the dark. I can’t count how many times I’ve gotten an e-mail reply only when I randomly bump into someone. The counterpoint of this is that if no one replies to your e-mail, don’t be surprised.


Williams has a YouTube channel


The most recent video is a profile of the newly reopened Goodrich Coffee Bar:

found via @WilliamsCollege on Twitter

This is also a good opportunity to link to the Williams College Podcast feed. Latest episode (24 Aug. 2009): Prendergast in Italy

Both of the above are picked up by EphPlanet.


What I’d Really Like to See: Improving the give2williams Website

So I just got poked by my good friend, cribbage nemesis, and class agent/secretary Zach who reminded me I hadn’t given to Williams this year yet. To get my attention, he actually joked that I earmark my donation for everything David Kane decries, and furthermore said he’d specified his go towards restoring the Odd Quad to its pre-Neighborhoods glory. Unconventional as it may seem, he got my donation . . . but when I popped over to I got to thinking . . .

As I sat there for an inordinate amount of time wondering which digit to put in the ones column, I came up with an idea that I’d really like to see implemented on the giving site: live-updated, humorous, cleverly chosen giving levels based on my intended gift. If you’re into fundraising, web development, or just (self-proclaimed) cool ideas, read on!

Read more


Halloween banner on

Williams has a festive banner for today! I have never seen this before. Of course Google has been doing it for years. I find it a nice touch.



Even Cornell Gets It!

According to an article in the NY Times, even Cornell understands that the appearance its website is important, if not crucial.

“Today, a Web site is the face of the university,” Mr. Cohen said. “It’s often the first way that high school students see Cornell. Not all administrators understood that.”

The university redesigned the Web site and the view book more than a year ago, and the students think the new versions are more traditional and more elegant.

So why are we still stuck with the current fugly purple-and-gray faux-Amherst circa 2002 garbage? Obviously, because either (1) our administrators DON’T understand the importance of the appearance of, (2) because they negligently don’t care about how hideously ugly and generic it is as long as it’s functional, or (3) because they’re blind and/or don’t look at what other colleges are doing, so they don’t see it as hideous.

Either of those three reasons is impermissible (except for actual physical blindness, of course). We demand better! This problem is obvious, the need to address it is pretty close to unanimous judging by our comments from the entries on this topic, and pretty damn easy to accomplish compared to all the other things we complain about here on EphBlog.

So why hasn’t it been fixed yet? Will we have to drop to #2 or #3 before this gets changed? Let’s hope not.


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